New Process Could Lead to Efficient, Reusable Protection from Impacts

According to a new study, motorists, athletes, and soldiers could have their lives secured by a new process that can help develop highly effective and reusable protection from explosion, vibration, as well as shock and impact.

Cyclists and other athletes could benefit from better protective equipment.
Cyclists and other athletes could benefit from better protective equipment. Image Credit: University of Birmingham.

When aqueous solutions are inserted under pressure into water-repellent nanoporous materials, like metal-organic frameworks and zeolites, they can help develop high-performance energy absorbing systems.

An international group of researchers tested hydrothermally stable zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs) with a 'hydrophobic' cage-like molecular structure and identified that such systems are highly effective energy absorbers at practical, high rate loading conditions.

This phenomenon was found to be related to water clustering and mobility in nanocages.

Scientists from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford, as well as Ghent University, Belgium, reported the results of their study recently in the Nature Materials journal.

Rubber is widely used for shock absorption nowadays, but the process we have discovered creates a material that can absorb more mechanical energy per gram with very good reusability due to its unique nanoscale mechanism. The material has great significance for vehicle crash safety for both occupants and pedestrians, military armoured vehicles and infrastructures as well as human body protection.

Dr Yueting Sun, Lecturer in Engineering, University of Birmingham

Soldiers and police could benefit from better body armour and bomb suits, athletes might wear more effective helmets, knee pads and shoe insoles as the material is liquid-like and flexible to wear,” added Dr Sun.

The material’s reusability, which arises from the spontaneous liquid extrusion, allows it to be ideal for damping purposes, which implies that it could be utilized to make vehicles with lower vibration and noise, as well as improved ride comfort.

Moreover, the material can be integrated into machinery to decrease detrimental noise and vibrations, thereby decreasing maintenance charges. It could even be utilized to minimize the susceptibility of buildings and bridges to earthquakes.

Existing advanced energy absorption materials depend on processes like wide plastic deformation, viscoelastic dissipation and cell buckling, which makes it hard to develop materials that can offer efficient safety from several impacts.

Journal Reference:

Sun, Y., et al. (2021) High-rate nanofluidic energy absorption in porous zeolitic frameworks. Nature Materials.

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