This new ultralight material has demonstrated resistance to the impact of microparticles at supersonic speed

This new ultra-light material has demonstrated resistance to microparticle impact at supersonic speed.

Engineers from MIT, Caltech and ETH Zürich have investigated the properties of "nanoarchitecture" materials (materials designed from nanoscale structures with precise patterns). One of their latest materials, thinner than the width of a human hair, has been shown to withstand the impact of microparticles at supersonic speed .

We are facing an ultralight material of carbon struts at the nano-scale, which give it toughness and mechanical robustness, which compared to steel, Kevlar, aluminum and other impact resistant materials of comparable weight, is more efficient to absorb the impacts. impacts .

Lighter alternatives to steel or kevlar

To test the material’s resistance to extreme deformation, the team conducted microparticle impact experiments at MIT using laser-induced particle impact tests . The technique aims an ultrafast laser through a glass slide coated with a thin film of gold, which in turn is coated with a layer of microparticles, in this case 14-micron-wide silicon oxide particles.

As the laser passes through the slide, it generates a plasma, or rapid gas expansion of the gold, which pushes the silicon oxide particles in the direction of the laser. This causes the microparticles to rapidly accelerate towards the target. Researchers can adjust the power of the laser to control the speed of the microparticle projectiles. In their experiments, they explored a range of microparticle velocities, from 40 to 1,100 meters per second, within the supersonic range .

This new class of materials could be useful in developing lightweight armor, protective coatings, explosive shields, and other impact resistant materials, and could also potentially be designed as lighter, more resistant alternatives to Kevlar and steel.

As published in Nature Materials , professor of materials science, mechanics, and medical engineering at Caltech, whose lab directed the material’s fabrication, explains co-author Julia R. Greer :

Knowledge from this work could provide design principles for ultralight impact resistant materials for use in efficient armor materials, protective coatings, and blast resistant shields desirable in defense and space applications.