Multi purpose fibre may lead to super strong body armour

November 14th, 2007 - 2:58 am ICT by admin  
The lightweight fibre is made up of millions of tiny carbon nanotubes (hollow cylinders of carbon just one atom thick), and has shown several beneficial properties.

Professor Alan Windle of the UOC said: “These nanotube fibres possess characteristics which enable them to be woven as a cloth, or incorporated into composite materials to produce super-strong products”.

The researchers say their material is almost 5-10 times stronger, tougher and stiffer than fibres currently used to make protective armour.

For body armour, the most critical parameter is the strength of fibres in the fabric. Strain-to-failure - in other words how much the material can extend before it breaks - is another.

According to Prof. Windle, the new fabric is very good at absorbing energy in the form of fragments travelling at very high velocity.

He said this fibre might also find application in the area of hi-tech “smart” clothing, bomb-proof refuse bins, flexible solar panels, and, eventually, as a replacement for copper wire in transmitting electrical power and signals.

“Our fibre is up there with the existing high performance fibres such as Kevlar. But we’ve seen bits that are much better than Kevlar in all respects,” the BBC quoted Prof. Windle, as saying.

The ingenious method to make the fibre is simple.

A hydrocarbon feedstock, such as ethanol, is injected into the furnace along with a small amount of iron-based catalyst.

Inside the furnace, this feedstock is broken down into hydrogen and carbon. The carbon is then chemically “re-built” on particles of iron catalyst as long, thin-walled nanotubes.

The work at Cambridge has already attracted interest from the UK Ministry of Defence and the US Army. (ANI)

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