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The Military Science Technology Hardware

Scientists Turn T-Shirts Into Body Armor 213

separsons writes "Scientists at the University of South Carolina recently transformed ordinary T-shirts into bulletproof armor. By splicing cotton with boron, the third hardest material on the planet, scientists created a shirt that was super elastic but also strong enough to deflect bullets. Xiaodong Li, lead researcher on the project, says the same tech may eventually be used to create lightweight, fuel-efficient cars and aircrafts."
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Scientists Turn T-Shirts Into Body Armor

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  • Re:How elastic? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:11PM (#31803754)
    Actually the elasticity of these things change with the among of force applied. When you try to punch these things hard (just like a bullet does) they seem to rigid. But when you try to handle them with less force, like try to slowly pull or push them (just like when you try to wear them), they seem to be really elastic.

    So your question should be rephrased as how elastic it is, when a bullet strikes it? Is is strong enough to distribute the force of the bullet through out your torso and not cause a serious dent?
  • Re:How elastic? (Score:5, Informative)

    by XiaoMing ( 1574363 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:15PM (#31803778)

    I think "bulletproof t-shirts" is just a bit of verbal hyperbole from the reporter, albeit fitting in regards to the process that led to the creation of this material.

    The main breakthrough of the process is that the third strongest material in the world, which was previously only accessible in a ceramic (read: brittle and crystalline) form can now be formed around templates of carbon fibers (the aforementioned, t-shirts baked to perfection).

    In other articles, the main emphasis is definitely on this new stronger material being an improvement on current ballistic fibers such as Kevlar.

    Popsci article: []

  • Not bulletproof. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ricken ( 797341 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:26PM (#31803834)
    Yet TFA says nothing about this armor being bullet-proof, as this slashdot article clearly states.

    Only that “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.”
  • by PhunkySchtuff ( 208108 ) <kai@automatica.c[ ]au ['om.' in gap]> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:47PM (#31803948) Homepage

    If it stops a 9mm shell, it'll stop the little barbed prongs that a taser shoots. But they might catch in the clothing anyway, so you might still get shocked. Unless this stuff is conductive enough to short it out, or insulating enough to protect you.

    No, it doesn't work that way. A "bulletproof" vest is relatively easy to get through with a sharp blade - most bullet resistant materials will use lots of strong fibres to tangle the bullet up in on it's way through, whereas a sharp knife (or a pointed barb that's not spinning) will penetrate relatively easily.

  • Re:boron is toxic (Score:4, Informative)

    by PhunkySchtuff ( 208108 ) <kai@automatica.c[ ]au ['om.' in gap]> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:53PM (#31803996) Homepage

    No, it isn't []
    Elemental boron and borates are non-toxic to humans and animals (approximately similar to table salt). The LD50 (dose at which there is 50% mortality) for animals is about 6 g per kg of body weight. Substances with LD50 above 2 g are considered non-toxic.

  • by reverendbeer ( 1496637 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:08PM (#31804090) aircraft.
  • by gzipped_tar ( 1151931 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @11:20PM (#31804574) Journal

    Any nethack player knows how important a piece of armor the t-shirt is.

    Blessed scrolls of enchant armor for the win.

  • by NicknamesAreStupid ( 1040118 ) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @11:21PM (#31804588)
    The Huns wore silk to protect themselves in battle. There were no bullets back then, just arrows and blades. While the arrows could still penetrate the flesh, they often did not cut through the silk which made it easier to remove the arrows and stem the bleeding. BTW, like tee-shirts, silk is imprintable -- "We're on the run, we're lotta fun, we are the Huns!"
  • Re:boron is toxic (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 10, 2010 @11:46PM (#31804758)
    Apparently not to me, grand parent and 2 mods. Jokes on great grand parent for making a lame joke no one gets.
  • Borons (Score:3, Informative)

    by Prikolist ( 1260608 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @01:29AM (#31805266)

    Ugh the writers of the article (and, consequently, the slashdot user) wrote a badly worded description. I was surprised as I never heard of any particularly strong allotrope of boron. If you actually read the whole thing, it's boron nanowires that give the strength. Key word: nanowires. Researchers used boron, but there are plenty of different materials to make nanowires out of. And it is the particular properties resulting from reinforcing materials with nanowires that give the 'bulletproof' strength.

  • Re:How elastic? (Score:3, Informative)

    by modecx ( 130548 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @01:39AM (#31805302)

    Ye old flak vests had metal. However, in my experience, no modern vests have metal plates at all. If a vest has a metal component, it is usually kept in a pouch *on the front* of the vest, where a bullet simply passes through, to be absorbed by the kevlar/aramid/textile component--offering virtually no benefit against bullets or their blunt trauma.

    What it does, however, is give protection against stabbing and puncture weapons, which traditional vests alone do not protect against. Even then, the metal insert stuff is two or three generations ago--haven't seen it in ages, really. I think most of the current anti-stab products incorporate layers of lexan/acrylic, possibly as well as additional bullet resistant material.

    Anyway, getting back to the point: there are a number of blunt trauma pads/products generally meant to cover the sternum area, which go in behind the vest. Addressing one other post in this thread: there is at least one such product that incorporates non-Newtonian fluids. The steel layers went away because they were too inflexible, too ineffective, and they really made you sweat--even more so than a vest already does.

    just my $0.02

  • Re:How elastic? (Score:5, Informative)

    by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @01:43AM (#31805324) Journal
    The force applied to the target by a bullet is less than or equal to the force applied to the hand or shoulder of the shooter. If it didn't knock the shooter over, it probably won't knock you over, if the force is spread over a larger area. Newton's laws still apply...
  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:18AM (#31805502)

    Brings my AC to 15!

    Am I the only one to notice that AC 15 is just incredibly disastrous??

    Certainly you mean AC -15.

  • Re:How elastic? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:22AM (#31805524)

    Its twice the weight as ceramic plates.

    Not only that, but the ceramic is usually boron carbide.

  • Re:How elastic? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mashiara ( 5631 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:55AM (#31805864) Homepage

    to nitpick: the gas wents and the semi/full -auto mechanism eat a nontrivial amount energy of the "equal but opposite reaction".

  • Re:How elastic? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:27AM (#31806712)

    You forget one thing, though. Shooters are generally standing in a very stable stance exactly for the reason not being knocked down. Try a less stable stance and the recoil might just knock you off your feet.

  • Re:How elastic? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Hydian ( 904114 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @10:44AM (#31807820)
    Kevlar will stop things like knives and tazers. That's what flak vests are for. A "bullet proof" vest is not a flak vest, however, and one will not protect you like the other. The military's body armor is designed to do both jobs.
  • Re:How elastic? (Score:5, Informative)

    by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:19PM (#31809586) Journal

    The dE/dT applies quite strongly here, the dE/dT is much lower for the shooter because the dT is longer as the projectile is accelerated through the barrel, at the other end the bullet either is stopped with a very short dT or it penetrates. The material in the article would be very useful in a layered approach; such as worn as a tee shirt with more conventional body armor providing the majority of protection.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling