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Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

Posted April 13, 2016 11:25 AM by HUSH

Bulletproofing is a big business and therefore an ever-developing area of focus for materials science. Erm, perhaps we'll call it bullet resistance from here on out, because eventually any material will be punctured by a bullet big enough and with enough force, so it's arguable 'bulletproof' is a misnomer.

Throughout history there have been some notable, and also peculiar, methods of protecting individuals from those who attempt to do them harm with firearms. Dr. George E. Goodfellow of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, had much particular interest, as he made a significant living treating the gun shot wounds of lawmen and outlaws, including the Earp brothers after the infamous gunfight at O.K. Corral. Goodfellow found a few cases where silk apparel had saved the lives of gunshot victims and wrote an article about his findings in an early medical journal. In short course, gangsters were buying $800 (with inflation: $18,000) silk vests as bullet armor.

It's true that silk has some rudimentary bullet-stopping properties, due to its elongation and strength. A 2014 study found that Archduke Franz Ferdinand's life, and possibly all those lost in the ensuing war, would have been saved had the Archduke elected to wear his silk armor on June 28, 1914. Spider silk is considered the premier source of silk for bulletproofing, and there is hope it could one day be integrated into body armor for soldiers and police, though it's difficult to harvest in amounts needed for scaled manufacturing.

Other bulletproofing technologies have ranged from mystical garments to plates of metals, polymers, and ceramic integrated into apparel. In the 1970s Kevlar was developed, and virtually every item of ballistics body armor utilizes aramid fibers today, usually in conjunction with plating. While this type of armor is much more effective than silk, it also fails when bullets hit near each other, and can be defeated by certain types of firearms or rounds. It's also quite heavy, which tires and reduces the mobility of its wearer.

But could a truly bulletproof material be on the way?

Graphene is often heralded as a breakthrough material, but reports on the material typically focus on its electric properties. A 2014 study laser-fired miniscule (1/10th the width of a human hair) bullets at 3 km/second at layers of graphene stacked up to 300 layers thick. Researchers found that the graphene stretched and slowed down the bullet, thanks to the way graphene distributes kinetic energy. Tensile stress travels through graphene at a speed of 22.2 km/second, faster than any other material. Graphene performs twice as well as Kevlar, and ten times better than steel in comparable ballistics tests.

Meanwhile, Afsaneh Rabiei, an engineering professor at North Carolina State University, has been working on composite metal foams (CMFs).Metal foams include gaseous pores within the material, and are manufactured by bubbling gas through molten metal or casting metallic alloy around metal spheres. Because of this construction they are incredibly lightweight. In ballistics tests, a 7.62 x 63 mm armor-piercing round was fired at a CMF mass according to body armor standards established by the National Institute of Justice. The result was that the bullet completely disintegrated upon impact, and the CMF was indented only 8 mm, while NIJ standards allows up 44 mm of indentation.

Will either graphene or CMFs become the material of choice for the next Popemobile? It's unknown. However, significant research into the ballistics resistance of these two materials can be expected, because governments will be eager to protect leaders, soldiers, police and everyone in between.

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#1

Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 11:39 AM

Define 'bullet'....

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#4
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 2:55 PM

define 'proof'

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#7
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 3:07 PM

# 10 Double the ethanol by volume percentage.

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#15
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 9:09 AM

"It depends on what your definition of is is"

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#2

Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 12:55 PM

A bullet has a certain amount of kinetic energy: E=1/2 m v^2

The force in the target (the vest) is inversely proportional to the stopping distance:

Energy = force x distance or force = Energy/distance

Pressure on target = force/Area.

So to minimize the injury (pressure) on the target, the stopping distance (thickness) needs to be as large as practicable and the resulting force needs to be spread over as large an area as possible.

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#5
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 2:57 PM

that one think, with a Kevlar vest, it may not let the bullet penetrate the Kevlar. But you may just get a cracked rib... if your lucky.

internal injury's if you not lucky

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#3

Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 1:26 PM

Once again we turn to the ancient conflict (pun intended) between offense and defense. Can a shield be made so strong that it will protect a person from all possible weapons? No, weapon designers will be just as creative in their weapon designs as shield designers will be in their work. Surely there will be times when one new technology will trump older technology but this never lasts forever.

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#6
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 3:03 PM

Well, there is an alternative

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#8
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 5:27 PM

That or the next option of hit first and hit so hard they either have no one and nothing left to fight back with or realize they can't take you on and survive a second hit.

Don't play or make damn sure you're going to be the uncontestable winner.

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#9
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/13/2016 8:48 PM

Remind me what me big brother told me when I went out for football as a freshmen in high school. Your first hit, hit hard and no matter how much it hurt, get up as though it was nothing.

They lined me up against an upper classmen that had 30-40 pounds on me.... They thought it would be funny. I got off good and I hit hard, hurt so much it tear'd me up. I got up and as I walked away, I looked back and he was still laying there.

Afterwards, the upper classmen did their freshmen hazing ritual to everyone but me.

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#10
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 3:24 AM

You mean like dropping an atomic bomb on them.

Hitting Hiroshima and Nagasaki with an atomic bomb because it would stop the Japs before they´d attack. While afterwards we hear they were already going to surrender and they still dropped the bomb just to see what it would do :p

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#11
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 7:36 AM

you really should read up on history and the culture of Japan.

Here, I''ll give you one of the multiple reasons the bombs were drop.

Reason 1.)

Your comment of; Hitting Hiroshima and Nagasaki with an atomic bomb because it would stop the Japs before they´d attack

That is false, It was to avoid the causalities estimate was in the excise of 1 milling casualties, and remember through out the pacific campaign the causality estimate was always low. that would occur with a marine amphibious landing assault on Japan. Like the Island Hopping it did

Which this nation was prepared to do.... one example.

The Purple Hearts awarded today, was made in 1945 for the planned invasion of island of Japan.

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#27
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/18/2016 10:13 AM

Maybe a bit long but definitely interesting, he's got more quests that talk about these interesting topics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONYJ2BoQDnw&index=18&list=WL

not specifically about the bombs dropped on japan but also great topics

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#12
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 7:41 AM

Really? Somehow I missed a few of these details in my history class.

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#24
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 7:53 PM

Don't play or make damn sure you're going to be the uncontestable winner.

Odds are definitely in favor of the larger force.

If your force is F1 and the enemy's force is F2, your odds of winning are (F1/F2)^2. If you have 100 units (airplanes, tanks, etc) and the enemy has 50 (ratio 2:1), each enemy unit has 2 units to take out whereas each of your units has only 1/2, a ratio of 4:1.

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#25
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/15/2016 7:31 AM

This perspective only makes sense when both sides have similar technologies and skill sets (generals & soldiers) to use them. One hundred Sopwith Camels will be useless against one A10 Thunderbolt (Warthog).

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#26
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/15/2016 8:26 PM

That is true, quantity squared only applies when quality is the same. A quality squared factor also comes in when quality is not equal, and it is not a universal law in all types of battle.

This relationship and others were developed by Frederick Lanchester in World War I.

Lanchester's Laws: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanchester%27s_laws

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#29
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/20/2016 3:24 PM

Yes, you need the tech to be comparable, otherwise the math leads to some strange results, such as one spear-carrying Hoplite wiping out an attack force of 10 M1A1 Abrams main Battle Tangs, simply because he was hunkered down behind a low berm. (If you've played the original Sid Meyers Civilization on the computer, odds are you've seen this happen at least once a game, and always when you're the one attacking with the expensive tanks.)

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#13

Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 8:24 AM

Kind of like "unbreakable". Don't see that moniker on products much anymore. Some kid will figure out a way to break it, and some one will manage to get a bullet through a bullet proof vest as well.

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#14
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 8:53 AM

I recall upsetting my dad when I was about 10 years old...

He said to me, If I'd give you a steel ball, you'd break that too, wouldn't you?

I thought that was funny, and agreed with him....

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#16
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 9:51 AM

While I was tough on things too, the mention of "kid" came to my mind from a tale my wife tells. She broke an "unbreakable" in front of a door to door salesman during his pitch to sell the product.

The catch phrase now is "virtually indestructible." That leaves them a way out when the product breaks.

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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 10:47 AM

what I left out that made dad laugh when I agree with him was I told him mom said I took after dad.

As a kid, I was pretty quick witted.... but I also knew when it was unsafe to say a smart alec remark back to him. I found out the hard way..... my dad was quicker than me when he had the right motivation.

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#17

Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 9:54 AM

One could make a suit that would stop a bullet from an A-10 cannon. But the wearer would be thrown quite some distance and sustain lotsa G's. Be fun to do the math...

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#19
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 10:47 AM

thats like making a suit that could stop a locomotive.

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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 10:54 AM

For this, there are so many terms that need definition, I would not even call it a 'question,' more an 'idle musing.'

"But could a truly[1] bullet[2]proof[3] material[4] be on the way?"

  1. How 'True' is truly? Does it need to stop a single round? Must it protect from a hundred shots, a thousand? Is it supposed to stop 'all bullets ever fired at it, for all time, in perpetuity?'
  2. How big of a bullet are we talking about? .22cal, 9mm, .50cal, the 'kinetic dart' (which carries no propellant of its own) of the APFSDS round from an Abrams Main Battle Tank? How much power is propelling the bullet? Is it low-power, 'high velocity,' whatever rating they give to the 'hit a target a mile away' sniper rifles, does the bullet contain its own internal rocket, so it continues to accelerate after launch, and continues to 'push' against the material after the first impact? Are there any other special preparations to the bullet? Is it Hardened to make it 'armor piecing,' are they coated with TeflonTM to allow them to 'slip between' protective fibers, are they made of Depleted Uranium, which tends to 'almost melt' it's skin in flight so their entry is 'lubricated' by the shedding plasticized skin?
  3. How 'proof' is proof? preventing bullet penetration of the target? preventing severe injuries of the target? preventing the target from feeling significant kinetic energy from the bullet?
  4. How are you defining 'material'? are there any constraints, such as maximum thickness, maximum weight, human portability? If memory serves, three feet of dirt will stop practically all small arms, and six inches of ice will stop almost everything short of a .50 caliber rifle, at least until it's shipped/melted away.
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#21

Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 1:38 PM

This blog reminded me of an old MythBusters (Episode 112, 2008 season) where they tested whether a metal badge (e.g., sheriff's badge) could stop a bullet. A badge made from nickel with a silver star worked, so this got labeled Plausible. Most other tested substances didn't do the trick.

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#22
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 3:57 PM

I remember that show and it bothered me a little. They did not offer the possibility that a glancing impact to any of the supposed protectors could deflect a bullet. Successfully deflecting a bullet can certainly save a life and start the supposed myth. It seemed to me they were reluctant to grant any scenario even a "plausible" result unless it met the worst conditions.

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#23
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/14/2016 4:38 PM

I agree with you. I think a slantwise scenario is just as plausible, if not more plausible, than a 90 degree impact with the target.

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#28
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/20/2016 3:18 PM

The myth tested was "Could these materials STOP a bullet?", not "Could these materials, AT THE CORRECT ANGLE(second variable), DEFLECT a bullet?"

Deflecting is pretty easy, that's why most armored fighting vehicles have sloped armor these days. Also, determining the best 'deflection angle' for each material would have added complications and more variables into the problem.

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#30
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/20/2016 5:07 PM

I think the folded speech and glasses cases that saved Teddy Roosevelt from John Flammang Schrank's assassination attempt were not really bullet proof since the slug did enter Teddy's chest. Nonetheless they still saved his life.

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#31
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Re: Can a Material be Truly 'Bulletproof'?

04/21/2016 10:16 AM

Exactly, it was not 'proof' against the bullet, the bullet went clean through and into Teddy, but it was bullet RESISTANT, and it 'resisted' (absorbed energy from) the bulled enough to reduce the 'one-shot-one-kill' into a survivable injury.

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