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Turning ordinary T-shirts into super-tough body armor

By

April 27, 2010

I’m no expert on bulletproof vests, but I’ve watched enough law enforcement television shows to convince me that they’re built for safety rather than comfort. Breakthrough research from the University of South Carolina suggests soldiers and law enforcement officers of the future might be more casually dressed. The scientists have taken an everyday T-shirt and reinforced it with the boron carbide – an extremely hard ceramic used in bullet proof vests and tanks – to produce a UV protective, lightweight and flexible body armor solution.

The scientists used plain, white T-shirts which they dipped into a boron solution. The strips were later removed and heated in an oven. The heating changed the cotton fibers into carbon fibers - which then reacted with the boron solution to produced boron carbide (which is the third hardest material known behind cubic boron nitride and diamond).

The resulting fabric was lightweight and although it was tougher and stiffer than T-shirt material it was still flexible enough to be bent – making an improvement in the restraining, heavy boron-carbide plates used for body armor and bulletproof vests. The material was also found to block out almost all ultraviolet rays.

"This is a true breakthrough," said Dr. Xiaodong Li, USC College of Engineering and Computing Distinguished Professor in Mechanical Engineering. “The boron-carbide nanowires we synthesized keep the same strength and stiffness of the bulk boron carbide but have super-elasticity. They are not only lightweight but also flexible. We should be able to fabricate much tougher body armors using this new technique. It could even be used to produce lightweight, fuel-efficient cars and aircrafts.”

The USC research team is collaborating with scientists from China and Switzerland.

Via: University of South Carolina.

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6 Comments

So, when can I bring in my t-shirts and make them super strong?! lol.

Never know when you'd need some super resistent material.

But seriously, it would be sweet to get some cotton cloth strengthened to use in some of my college projects!

Colter Cederlof
28th April, 2010 @ 02:53 am PDT

Time for myth-busters to shoot some guns at this stuff with their jelly dummies.

But, the nice thing about wearing these tough T-shirts is that I won't get a sunburn under them! (Doesn't my regular ol' cotton T-shirts do this already???!!!)

matthew.rings
29th April, 2010 @ 08:45 pm PDT

nice,can be use as car body.light weight, it will totally reduce fuel consumption

Husnil Amar
4th May, 2010 @ 05:58 am PDT

I like the way you think Amar.

Mark Keller
28th January, 2013 @ 11:06 am PST

I agree with Amar! Also, this could be sold for airsoft

Schuyler19
6th May, 2013 @ 06:01 pm PDT

Why does UV protection even come into this article??? Any material thick enough to make into armor will also stop UV.

Bob
27th July, 2014 @ 01:03 pm PDT
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