We know that graphene is super strong, so it should stand to reason that it would be a sensible—if expensive—choice for body armour. Now, scientists have demonstrated that it's twice as effective as the material currently used to make bullet-proof vests.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have been investigating how graphene stands up to the onslaught of high-speed projectiles. To do that, they set up a kind of mico-gun range. They used lasers to vaporise filaments of gold, which in turn shot out a micron-size glass bullet at 3,000 metres per second. Aimed at between 10 and 100 sheets of graphene, it was then possible to work out how it stood up to high-velocity projectiles.
Turns out, pretty well! The researchers discovered that graphene absorbs huge amounts of kinetic energy, stretching into a cone at the point of impact and then cracking outwards from that point in the radial direction. Despite the cracks, it's still twice as good at absorbing impacts as kevlar, and a staggering 10 times better than steel.
People have speculated in the past that graphene would make wonderful body armour—because as well as being strong it's also very light—but this is the first time anyone's demonstrated that it can stand up incredibly well to high-speed impact. It might be a while before graphene body armour becomes a reality—but at least we now know that, when it is, it's going to work damn well. [Science via New Scientist]
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