Researchers from MIT, Caltech, and ETH Zürich have developed an ultralight material designed from precisely patterned nanoscale structures that could eventually be used in lightweight armor, protective coatings, blast shields, and other impact-resistant applications. More specifically, this ultralight material is made from nanometer-scale carbon struts that give it even more material toughness and mechanical robustness than Kevlar. Read more for a short clip of a microparticle impacting the material and additional information.
To see just how resilient the material is, the researchers performed microparticle impact experiments at MIT using laser-induced particle impact tests. This allowed them to aim an ultrafast laser through a glass slide coated with a thin film of gold. Once the laser passed through the slide, it generated a plasma, or a rapid expansion of gas from the gold, which pushed the silicon oxide particles out in the direction of the laser, causing them to accelerate toward the target.
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The knowledge from this work… could provide design principles for ultra-lightweight impact resistant materials [for use in] efficient armor materials, protective coatings, and blast-resistant shields desirable in defense and space applications,” said co-author Julia R. Greer, a professor of materials science, mechanics, and medical engineering at Caltech.