Polyurethane Might be the Key to Next-Gen Body Armor

A cool new development in bullet stopping tech happening at Rice University.  This from the school’s web site:

A Rice University lab, in collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, decided to find out by creating the nanoscale target materials, the microscale ammo and even the method for firing them.

Ned Thomas, dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice and a materials scientist, holds a polyurethane disk with the bullets it stopped and sealed inside. Thomas is leading an investigation into the characteristics of such materials at the nanoscale.

In the process, they gathered a surprising amount of information about how materials called block copolymers dissipate the strain of sudden impact.

This video explains more:

Long time DT readers will remember the “Dragonskin” issue a couple of years ago.  This polymer tech could render that discussion moot and be a big game changer in the world of personal protection.

(Gouge: Mike Archer)

25 Comments on "Polyurethane Might be the Key to Next-Gen Body Armor"

  1. So is this the same stuff one would use to coat and protect hardwood floors? If so, then could one just go down to the hardware store, buy a gallon or two, pour it in a frame, and make their own bullet proof glass?

  2. I think folks on this board will not be happy till they have Stormtrooper outfits from Star wars to wear. We need light saber resistant Armor!

  3. Finally, something tech related.

    Under rubber toughening, another wiki article:

    "Many thermoplastics such as polystyrene and PMMA are brittle when stressed, a property which limits applications. A good way of strengthening such polymers is to copolymerise elastomeric chains during manufacture. The elastomer chains form separate phases in the solid, typically 10-20 micrometres in diameter, so that when the material is strained, crazes form at their surfaces, increasing the energy needed to break the material"

    Might mitigate one of the weaknesses of boro-ceramics, which is that they are strong but brittle, and heavy. That said, what kind of weight, density and effective volume of material is required to stop an AK-47 round? Does the copolymer spall?

    On the plus side, polymers can be molded and cast perhaps much more reliably and cheaply than ceramic plates. Curious where it'll go.

  4. I think the keywords here may be 'nanoscale' and 'microscale ammo'. Interesting start, though.

  5. Look at the 1 and 2 minute marks there is no advantage to be gained.

  6. Interesting for LE but doubt it can stop a 7.62x39mm bullet or a 5.45 or a 7.62x54R with out being VERY VERY THICK. Who knows but I doubt this will blow armor plates away tomorrow. more test need to be done and while interesting I do have doubts on it can stop rifle bullets.


  8. What about performance under heat?…

  9. Body armor that floats! That should be the goal.

  10. If the Enhanced Combat Helmet is any indication of progress, I am curious on what else could be made.

  11. Would they layer it with Kevlar and other stuff, make it lighter then current armour.

    I do wonder if the guy in the photo was holding the disc when it was shot at… that would have been cool to see.

  12. stephen russell | November 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Reply

    Saw this in the TV show pilot Knight Rider 2008, bullets would hit car & body would absorb bullets like this MIT armor gel.
    Must for DoD & Security alone.
    Cut down on weight??

  13. I am glad to hear that our company helped to get this safety "polymers"on the market for safety purposes also..

  14. ok good ideer but how about using a ak round our a 45/7.62 round?

  15. It sounds like it is a hell of a lot better than the armor we had in Nam, where a bullet went in one side and came out of the other to go into your body.

  16. This tech combined with an underlying layer of a rheostatic fluid could be a very effective body armor capable of protecting places that are basically impossible to protect now – like the armpit area for example.

  17. To Ward Carroll,__Call Leslie Duke at ballisticsreasearch.com. He's already manufacturing a polymer based armor he developed. I don't know how similar it is to the polyurethane technology, but I know it works incredibly well at bullet stopping and capturing. I believe it's already in use in the field.

  18. We should insure large R&D dollars for materials research. It is incredible what the nano future will hold. That includes energetic materials as well for propulsion and advanced explosives.

  19. So, he said something to the effect that the polyurethane target performed better at stopping the slugs than an equivalent steel target while weighing less than a seventh as much…
    Huh?! That polyurethane chunk looks to be about two inches thick… Anyone doubt a steel chunk a seventh of that thickness would stop the 9mm slugs with zero penetration?

    If polyurethane is a little denser than water as I recall, his factor of seven comment seems to imply an equivalent thickness of steel target is being discussed. Two inches of steel for small arms armor is a lot of steel armor.


  21. Best way to Stop a Bullet is to stop making guns the fire them. Then dont sell guns. Im kidding. really.

  22. I’d settle for the Master Chief’s armor. (from Halo)

  23. what does this have to do with the polyurethane body armor

  24. Maybe, its because of the resistance. Polyurethane manufacturing companies innovations with their products are far beyond our reach because they expanded their knowledge in making many output products using polyurethane. I read in an article that there's already some companies that manufacture armor made from polyurethane, their products are helm, vest armour etc.

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