Jeff Fitlow/Rice University
Researchers at Rice University in Houston have used 3D printing methods to create polymer cubes that can withstand bullets.
The cubes' have elaborate structures and are made up of numerous layered lattices that make them ultra-durable.
The researchers found that the cubes with these particular structures were significantly better at withstanding the impact of a 5.8 kilometre-per-second bullet and other "crushing forces" than a solid cube made of the same polymer.
There have been several alarming stories about 3D-printing enthusiasts potentially manufacturing their own guns at home.
But a group of 12 researchers at Rice University in Houston have done the opposite — used the technique to create near-bulletproof material. We first saw the news via Gizmodo.
The Rice University group used 3D printing to create plastic cubes that can remain almost wholly intact when shot at by 5.8 kilometre-per-second bullets or subjected to "crushing forces."
The idea was to test a theoretical structure called "tubulanes", described as theoretical microscopic structures comprised of crosslinked carbon nanotubes. Two researchers within the group, chemist Ray Baughman and physicist Douglas Galvão, predicted back in 1993 that tubulanes could have exceptional loadbearing and impact-resistance properties.
The main aim of Rice University's study, first published in nanotech-focused scientific journal "Small" and republished in Wiley, was to see if tubulanes' predicted exceptional properties exist even when they're scaled up to 3D-printable size.
The researchers created various intricate, layered polymer cubes based on tubulanes, and tested to see if they were any better than simple, solid polymer cubes at withstanding speeding bullets.
They built computer simulations of various tubulane blocks, printed the designs as macroscale polymers, and then subjected them to the speeding bullets.
They found the cube with structures based on tubulanes were significantly better at withstanding the impact of a 5.8 kilometre-per-second bullet than the simple, solid cube made of the same plastic. It was ten times better, in fact.
While the solid polymer cube was left with a huge dent and numerous cracks in and around it, the cube based on tubulanes stopped the bullet by its second layer, leaving the rest wholly intact and undamaged.
The study's lead author Seyed Mohammad Sajadi – a graduate student at Rice – also said that optimizing the lattice design could lead to better materials for civil, aerospace, automotive, sports, packaging and biomedical applications.
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