Research chemists develop lighter, field repairable transparent armor

March 9, 2017 by Daniel Parry, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
The NRL-developed transparent polymer armor consists of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer and a harder material substrate. Very small crystalline domains, which also provide rigidity, give the polymer its transparency. Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Research chemists at U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed and patented a transparent thermoplastic elastomer armor to reduce weight, inherent in most bullet-resistant glass, while maintaining superior ballistic properties.

Thermoplastic elastomers are soft, rubbery polymers converted by physical means, rather than a chemical process, to a solid. Consequently, the solidification is reversible and enables damaged armor surfaces to be repaired 'on-the-fly' in the field.

"Heating the material above the softening point, around 100 degrees Celsius, melts the small crystallites, enabling the fracture surfaces to meld together and reform via diffusion," said Dr. Mike Roland, senior scientist, NRL Soft Matter Physics. "This can be accomplished with a hot plate, akin to an iron, that molds the newly forming surface into a smooth, flat sheet with negligible effect on integrity."

Up to now, NRL scientists have tested the use of polymeric materials as a coating to achieve improved impact resistance of hard substrates. Applying polyurea and polyisobutylene layers enhance the ballistic performance of armor and helmets, and achieve greater ballistic effectiveness and mitigation of blast waves.

By using a variation of employing thermoplastic elastomers, NRL scientists are able to recreate superior ballistic properties of polyurea and polyisobutylene coatings, with the added benefit of the material being transparent, lighter than conventional bullet-resistant glass, and repairable.

"Because of the dissipative properties of the elastomer, the damage due to a projectile strike is limited to the impact locus. This means that the affect on visibility is almost inconsequential, and multi-hit protection is achieved," Roland said.

Explore further: Rubber research may extend life of amphibious assault vehicle

Related Stories

Most stretchable elastomer for 3-D printing

February 9, 2017

Due to its excellent material properties of elasticity, resilience, and electrical and thermal insulation, elastomers have been used in a myriad of applications. They are especially ideal for fabricating soft robots, flexible ...

Engineer focuses on the mechanics of better bullet proofing

November 20, 2006

Body armor with greater ballistics resistance is the aim of the research being carried out by Youqi Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Kansas State University, with support from two U.S. Department of ...

New strategically important hard metal developed in Finland

September 3, 2013

Over the past three years VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has been working with Finnish-based Exote Ltd to develop a new hard metal and the necessary manufacturing process. This material can be used to replace tungsten ...

Recommended for you

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Probiotic bacteria evolve inside mice's GI tracts

March 26, 2019

Probiotics—which are living bacteria taken to promote digestive health—can evolve once inside the body and have the potential to become less effective and sometimes even harmful, according to a new study from Washington ...

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EyeNStein
not rated yet Mar 09, 2017
So how does this reform-able temperature sensitive armour respond to the molten copper slug from a shaped charge armour piercing round?
Porgie
not rated yet Mar 09, 2017
How will you stop the reflection, just paint or cloth covering? Seems easy enough to fix, but use will ware both off.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.