The nanoarmor of the future

An Israeli company has created materials made of inorganic fullerene-like nanostructures (IFs) able to resist to pressures as high as 250 tons per square centimeter. These materials could be incorporated in "nanoarmors" able to protect soldiers or police forces within three years.

According to IsraCast, an Israeli company has created materials made of inorganic fullerene-like nanostructures (IFs) which have amazing shock absorbing properties. During preliminary tests, these materials, which are five times stronger than steel, have successfully resisted to steel projectiles generating pressures as high as 250 tons per square centimeter. These materials could be incorporated in "nanoarmors" able to protect soldiers or police forces within three years.

These inorganic nanostructures have been developed at ApNano Materials in collaboration with the Nano-materials Synthesis Group of the Weizmann Institute.

These exciting new materials have also recently been mentioned in "Inorganic Menagerie," the cover story of the August 29, 2005 issue of 'Chemical & Engineering News' (C&EN).

Below is a transmission electron micrograph showing the layered structure of a WS2 nanotube (Credit: Reshef Tenne, ApNano Chief Scientific Advisor).

The layered structure of a WS2 nanotube

And on this other transmission electron micrograph, you can see nested WS2 nanoparticles, which can make excellent solid lubricants (Credit: Reshef Tenne).

Nested WS2 nanoparticles

IsraCast adds that this onion-like nanostructure is responsible for its remarkable strength and durability.

Here are some more excerpts of the IsraCast article about these materials.

The new IF material produced by the Weizmann Group was made of Tungsten Disulfide (WS2). In contrast to organic Fullerenes, IF is easier and much less expensive to produce, it is chemically stable and is less reactive and consequently less flammable. Organic Fullerenes are also considered to be highly toxic while IF materials have been tested extensively and deemed safe.
Tungsten Disulfide is relatively heavy and for that reason ApNano is currently experimenting with other materials such as Titanium Disulfide which is at least four times lighter and is expected to perform even better than Tungsten Disulfide against shock waves.

And these strong shock absorbing properties gave new ideas to the researchers.

One of the most interesting new IF properties discovered by ApNano is its extremely high degree of shock absorbing ability. Shock absorbing materials are commonly used in impact resistant applications such as ballistic protection personal body armor, bullet proof vests, vehicle armor, shields, helmets, and protective enclosures.
The new Tungsten based IF material has up to twice the strength of the best impact resistant materials currently used in protective armor applications such as boron carbide and silicon carbide, and are over 5 times stronger than steel. It is also possible to combine IF with other substances in order to expand their rage of capabilities. For instance, mixing IF with highly elastic materials can lead to new compounds which are both flexible and shock-absorbing. These properties position IF materials as one of the best candidates for future protective gear and armor.

When will we able to see such protective body armors? There are still many problems to solve. Right now, ApNano is only able to produce a few kilograms per day of these new materials. And it will take up to 2007 to reach a daily production of several tons. Then, future prices are unknown and more tests need to be done before getting approval from military and police forces.

Finally, the company might need more backing money before entering in full production mode. But if everything goes according to plans, these "nanoarmors" could be deployed within three years.

Sources: Iddo Genuth, IsraCast, December 9, 2005; and various web sites

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