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Science Technology

Graphene May Top Kevlar As a Bullet-Stopping Material 129

The Royal Society of Chemistry reports that U.S. researchers Edwin Thomas and Jae-Hwang Lee have been testing the strength of graphene mesh in one role it's probably destined to appear in down the road: as ballistic shielding material. From the article: We cannot use conventional techniques such as a gun barrel or gunpowder [on this scale],’ explains Lee. ‘Instead we used a laser to accelerate a microscale silica bullet [at the multilayer graphene target].’ The bullet was propelled into stacked graphene sheets at supersonic speeds of up to 2000mph by the gases produced by laser pulses rapidly evaporating a gold film. The team calculated the energy difference of the bullet before and after to determine the energy absorbed. Neil Bourne, director of the National Centre for Matter under Extreme Conditions in the UK, who was not involved in the research, described the technique as ‘very exciting’. ‘They have taken a standard laboratory ballistics configuration and demonstrated its utility on microscopic scales,’ he says. Graphene was able to absorb up to 0.92MJ/kg of ballistic energy in the test, with cracks forming around the impact zone. By comparison, steel targets only absorbed up to 0.08MJ/kg at the same speed.
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Graphene May Top Kevlar As a Bullet-Stopping Material

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  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Saturday November 29, 2014 @11:03PM (#48488787)

    Every day I'm seeing something about how they can pump the stuff out of a damn DVD burner and how it is great at being a capacitor and all this other stuff.

    And yet nothing that contains this technology.


    It is really fucking annoying to be told all these things are happening and then have no way to access any of it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 29, 2014 @11:13PM (#48488819)
      I think the problem lies in you get media coverage on the basic research and the release of a product but no media coverage on the years of development and implementation research in order to get from A to B. It's not sexy enough for media coverage.
      • Doesn't matter... it's been ten years. We should have seen a product by now.

        • 10 years ago they were saying at least 10 years. Most of the big sexy breakthroughs have been in the last few years, and almost all of those are fairly fundamental and not at all close to being products. There are already high quality flexible display prototypes being shown at Japanese conventions. Right now I don't think anybody needs a flexible screen badly enough to pay the "prototype-adopter" prices. Give it a couple more years and they'll have something ready for "early" adopters.

          • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

            10 years ago they had been saying 10 years already.

            I question the new information of this research. if they had managed to test it at a bigger scale, it might have some value - like a lot of value, on microscopic scale the strength and structure has been known for a long time now?

            as for flexible displays have existed for a long while now. nobody has come up with any uses for them though, mostly because while they're flexible they are not like cloth at all. (furthermore, how do flexible oled displays depend

            • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @02:36AM (#48489413) Homepage

              10 years ago they had been saying 10 years already.

              We seem to have come to the root of the problem. When they say, "at least 10 years" and establish a minimum bound, you hear "10 years" and take it is a maximum.

              R&D people do not promise to turn new technologies into products inside of a fixed time period. And when the say "at least 10 years" they're establishing a precision of a decade. It isn't a prediction at all, but if you wanted to translate it into one it would be something like "10-30 years" not "within 10 years."

            • by dylan_- ( 1661 )

              10 years ago they had been saying 10 years already.

              No they hadn't. The "scotch-tape technique" was what suddenly made graphene the new wonder material that could be produced relatively cheaply. It was invented in 2004 - just about 10 years ago.

      • by Andy_R ( 114137 )

        That's why the particular bit of research in TFA is really important, there is now proof of a military application for graphene - which means the US will throw money it the problem of making it in bulk.

    • by DavenH ( 1065780 ) on Saturday November 29, 2014 @11:15PM (#48488837)
      There are a hundred steps in between the lab and the open market. You need a lot of funding, development and approval of patents, the approval from applicable government agencies, prototyping, mass production, marketing, and then if all that is successful, market penetration. This doesn't happen in a year. Hopefully it's highly profitable too, or its time on the market will be short-lived.
      • There may be a hundred steps, but you named some that aren't necessary such as "development and approval of patents, approval of government agencies."

        You want to make something out of (name any substance)? There are only a few special cases where any government approval is required, and patents are NEVER required.

        • by DavenH ( 1065780 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @12:10AM (#48489031)

          You want to make something out of (name any substance)? There are only a few special cases where any government approval is required, and patents are NEVER required.

          If you want any capital to operate with, you need security in the profitability of producing it. Patents are this security, and so are always necessary unless you want to throw money away. So no, you don't want to leave out steps that will quickly leave your company bankrupt. And all business sectors have codes, standards, and regulations by which you need to abide.

      • You say this like there aren't hundreds of companies that would throw money at these people as well as loan them their armies of lawyers if there was money to be made.

        No, there is something else going on here. It isn't the funding or the law. There has to be a problem with the product.

        • by Your.Master ( 1088569 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @06:50AM (#48490043)

          Manufacturing at scale is a big problem

          http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files... [shopify.com]

          The stuff is still monumentally more expensive than its competition, even with the price dropping fast, because it's new and we haven't figured out how to scale it yet. The stuff coming out of your dvd burner is not the high quality stuff, and low quality graphene is worse than non-graphene alternatives at most things.

          Its use in electronics is also inhibited by the lack of bandgap, which people are looking into: http://physicsworld.com/cws/ar... [physicsworld.com]. It's just another material, and pricing will dictate its use vs. less effective but still perfectly viable alternatives. While its new, this has an odd chicken-and-egg supply-and-demand relationship.

          • Price is not the only variable.If it is better at ANYTHING then someone will use it because there are situations where being better at a specific thing makes it better indifferent to price differences.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I have some bad news for you, it's always been that way. Go find some magazines from the 1960s: Oh we'd be commuting to the Moon and taking vacations on Mars! We'd pass by the orbital factories making ball bearings from asteroids for the Jupiter Mining Corporation!

      Yeah.... Fantasies are one thing, reality is quite another.

      • The point being that the tech is hyped and isn't giving the full story.

        Which is what I'm implying in the first place.

    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Saturday November 29, 2014 @11:51PM (#48488953)

      And this stuff and nonsense about aeroplanes! For ten years now they've claimed breakthrough after breakthrough vis-a-vis powered flight and yet here we are in the fine year 1914 and they still have nothing to show us but more of their ramshackle prototypes! Where are the great flying ships they keep promising to take us round the world in a week's time? The bloody Hun had the good sense to invest in dirigibles; there's a technology that's going places—aha!

      • the Wright brothers went out of their way to put on displays for people. They went on tours and everything.

        It doesn't take this long to bring something into production. It has been over 10 years.

        • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @01:45AM (#48489273)

          Yes, but airplanes were no more than experiments until more than a decade after the first powered flight, when WWI spurred refinement and mass production. Graphene has also been displayed and demonstrated, but not mass produced.

          2D structures like Graphene are a new class of materials, and that takes time. Plastics were discovered decades before any practical product was made. Petroleum was known for millenia before we had a clue what it was capable of. Metals too. Spend some time on Wikipedia and learn how long it took to bring any material or technology to widespread use.

          Yes, I know: We live in the Internet age now, and you can become a YouTube celebrity overnight, so come on already. Alas, you can't expect science to keep pace with 21st century ADHD.

          • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

            and here I was thinking that plastics had use cases right out of the door. that is, within a year of them having figured out to industrially produce the stuff - and many plastics and plastic like products having been made for a purpose already known.

            celluloid("man made" plastic) was in the market in little under a decade(from a commercial venture). more importantly than that, it had practical uses to show the day it was announced, nylon was first synthesized in 1935 and women were wearing it in 1940. graph

        • It doesn't take this long to bring something into production.

          And you know this... how?

          • Isn't it clear that he has a PhD in physics and several years of experience building industrial plants with his bare hands and the force of his will?

        • the Wright brothers went out of their way to put on displays for people. They went on tours and everything.

          Sound strategy. If you didn't actually invent it, then PR by the truckload is the next best thing. See also: Al Gore, Mark Zuckerberg.

          • The wright brothers did invent the first powered flight airplane.

            • by dave420 ( 699308 )
              They didn't, but it's often claimed they did. They were just the first to publicize their offering. Many people around the world had been playing with heavier-than-air powered flying machines.
              • Sure sure... no one ever invents anything because someone somewhere else was JUST about to come forward. By this logic, the Allies didn't develop the atomic bomb first because the Nazis were working on it too.

                At some point you have to draw a line and say "that guy invented it"... if you want to say in addition to that "lots of people were close to the same thing"... that's fine. But they didn't get there first. The Wright brothers did.

                Here you're going to get snarky which is a giant waste of both our time.

    • I agree. We've been hearing about the miraculous strength to weight, low-calorie sweetening, non-stick and other properties of graphene for decades. Yet bridges are still built of steel, bullet-resistant vests are still Kevlar. Seems like it works great at lab / microscale but does not scale-up nicely to commercial applications. Can someone who actually knows what they are talking about (I know, I know; I'm on /., silly me) clue us in on what the difficulties are with commercializing graphene?
      • The key question is: WHY?
        Why would anyone want to replace Kevlar ? Working technology, the whole production line from creating raw Kevlar to materials used in clothing and finally crafting the clothing does already exist!
        So, what would be the benefit except spending lots of money in replacing a production line/industry with another one?
        Oh, at some point ... perhaps, perhaps not ... graphene might be cheaper ... obviously we are not at that point yet!
        I doubt we even have a process creating graphene in such q

    • by tulcod ( 1056476 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @04:47AM (#48489731)

      Essentially, right now it is really really difficult to work with graphene on an industrial scale.

      If you want to work with it in the lab, you get yourself some graphite (essentially pencil lead), some scotch tape, some solvents and you're done. It is dirt cheap and, given a good microscope and a steady hand, not too difficult to work with.

      But of course this is no way to work with it on any larger scale. You want to be able to produce a certain amount of it, reliably and precisely. No flaws in the graphene crystal. No multi-layer graphene (which in fact is one of the toughest things to avoid).

      This is all really difficult right now.

      The situation was similar for transistors, if you recall: the first solid-state transistor was invented in 1947 (by 1956 Nobel prize winners John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley), but it took until the 1960s for ICs to take off (Jack Kilby, 2000 Nobel prize winner, is usually pointed out as the culprit). It took until 2004 (!) for the first single-layer graphene to be isolated (by 2010 Nobel prize winners Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov). So expect the first industrial application of graphene somewhere around the end of this decade, and some patent wars around 2019-2025, and then a Nobel prize for the inventor of whatever industrial process we will be using, around 2040.

      • How many things are on the market that are hand made? Buy a nice sports car and you might get a hand woven interior.

        If you need human labor to work with this stuff then it exists.

      • by radtea ( 464814 )

        The situation was similar for transistors, if you recall: the first solid-state transistor was invented in 1947...

        Actually, the situation was very different for the transistor. The 1947 invention was the point-contact transistor. The bipolar junction silicon transistor was invented in 1954 and the first commercial transistor radio was released the same year (both by TI): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        So less than 7 years from "it's possible" to the first release of perhaps the most famous application.

        Microchips, which you mention for some reason, are irrelevant: the impact of the transistor was huge long before micr

    • Apparently getting it to scale without unacceptably high defect levels has proven to be extremely hairy. What I do find somewhat curious, though, is that there appears to be very little, if any, use of the small bits that they can make in some sort of composite application. I'm not sure if that's down to price or if it simply isn't that much better than generic carbon fiber unless you can produce relatively large, relatively high quality, sheets of the stuff.
    • File it with flying cars, fusion power (or thorium cycle or pebble bed or whatever nuclear power suits your fancy), batteries or caps with extremely high (approaching that of liquid chemical fuels) energy and power density, practical large-scale solar power, and a cure for the common cold as stuff we'll always talk about but never ever get.

      • largely the point of my post... If I'm promised jet packs... I want to see jet packs on the market within 10 years. If I don't... then I'm assuming the first prediction of jetpacks was crap. And what is more, every subsequent promise of jetpacks is ignored until such time as I actually see the fucking things for sale and they preform to a reasonable approximation of spec.

  • sane units - FYI (Score:4, Informative)

    by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Saturday November 29, 2014 @11:49PM (#48488951)
    No one but a reporter talks about bullets in miles per hour. 2000 MPH is about 3000 feet per second.

    A typical handgun bullet (9mm, 45 ACP, etc) is going to be around 1000 to 1500 fps. Shoulder arms (223, 308, 30-06, etc) tend towards the 2500-3000 fps range.

    The MJ/kg figures refer to Specific kinetic energy [wikipedia.org]. To convert it to foot-pounds, you need to multiply it by the mass of the projectile to find the energy in joules, then multiply by 0.73756 (or do the dimensional analysis the hard way).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      For sane units, 2000 mph ~= 900 m/s.

      p.s. I'm an American, and I only use mph for driving speeds.

    • No one but a reporter talks about bullets in miles per hour. 2000 MPH is about 3000 feet per second.

      2933 feet, 4 inches per second. Exactly. 15 MPH = 22 FPS.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        2933 feet, 4 inches per second. Exactly. 15 MPH = 22 FPS.

        You're probably the kind of guy who translates "I ran a mile yesterday" to "I ran 1609 meters yesterday", it's theoretically correct but in practice probably silly and wrong unless it was a one mile run at a race track. If it was a jogging trip it was an approximation and could just as easily be 1500 meters or 1700 meters, you're over-specifying the precision. In this case 3000 fps is the same level of approximation as 2000 MPH, which is actually much less misleading.

        • it's theoretically correct

          No, the precision disagrees and so it is neither theoretically or actually correct.

        • A mile is a discreet unit equal to 5280 feet. 2000 MPH is exactly 10560000 feet per hour, regardless of how many significant figures you think "2000 MPH" has. (Hint: It has 4. Zeros are significant. If they aren't, you're not supposed to write them.) An hour is equal to 3600 seconds, regardless of whether you write it as 3.6 x 10^3 s or 3600 seconds or 1 hour or .001 khour. Or do you believe an hour is 3 kilo seconds?

          Unit conversion does not involve significant figures unless the conversion factor itse

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Rounding, dear boy. An hour is 4 kiloseconds.

          • A mile is a discreet unit

            I assume you mean a statute mile.

            The nautical ones are far from it, getting drunk and singing bawdy songs, mooning nuns ...

          • by amorsen ( 7485 )

            Hint: It has 4. Zeros are significant. If they aren't, you're not supposed to write them. [..] If you wanted to claim "2000 MPH" really meant "between 2000 and 3000 MPH" then it should have been written as "2x10^3 MPH or 2 kMPH

            Your proposed nomenclature is practically not in use. Very few people would understand it.

            2000MPH has one significant digit unless you can deduce from context that it was measured more precisely.

            • 2000MPH has 4 significant digits. Or do you think it is the same as 2MPH or 20MPH?
              Furthermore the term 'significant' is only relevant behind the decimal point.

              • by amorsen ( 7485 )

                Do you seriously believe that an article which mentions 2000MPH in general means 2000MPH +/- 0.5MPH? If so, I am not sure how to convince you otherwise.

                • That has nothing to do with the question about significancy :)
                  Yes, I believe it is 'in general' +/- 5 or ten. What else should it be? +/- 500? If so he had written 1500 - 2500 ...

                  • by amorsen ( 7485 )

                    That has nothing to do with the question about significancy :)

                    That is what significancy is! What else would it be?

                    • Significancy reffers to the diggits behind the decimal point. All digits before it are significant by default. Otherwise one would write it different. Or use language to emphasize error margines (like 'about' or 'around' or 'approximately'), or use special outdated notations where you e.g. write a dot on top of the last significant digit or underline it. As long as one simply writes: 2000km/h everything is significant, just like as in 375km/h (speed of the TGV from Karlsruhe to Paris e.g. at least its speed

          • Incorrect. 2000 MPH has one sig fig. Intermediate zeros (2001) and trailing zeros to the right of the decimal (2000.0) are significant but trailing zeros to the left of the decimal are not unless somebody changed introductory Physics since the 90's.

            Of course if you want to be unambiguous you should write 2.000 x 10^3 or 2 x 10^3 so we can distinguish between 4 vs 1 sig fig. By moving the trailing zeros to the right of the decimal we've declared them significant. But it is utterly wrong to assuume that 2000

    • From Imperial to S.I. and then back out again is sane units? Didn't you guys throw the British out so you didn't have to Chain yourselves in Knots?
    • In case anyone was wondering, shooting is essentially an American hobby, so basically all ballistic information you'll find will be in feet per second and foot-pounds.

      Regardless of your feelings about American units of measure, if you want to compare these numbers to the tables in reloading handbooks, to the numbers on a box of ammo, or to the advertisements in magazines, you'll need to convert one or the other. Makes much more sense to convert the numbers from the article to the system used by the largest

  • Silica? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Isomorphic ( 241771 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @12:09AM (#48489025)

    One wonders how graphene fares against bullets made from graphene.

    • Re:Silica? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @02:30AM (#48489403) Homepage

      Graphene has a lot of strength in a sheet, but it is soft and floppy. A graphene bullet would just be a carbon bullet. A graphene-coated bullet would be similar to a teflon coated bullet, but not as good and a lot more expensive.

    • Well, graphene seems to possess all of the properties of a silver bullet, it can filter water, store energy, cure cancer, establish world peace, so I would say a bullet and bulletproof vest out of this stuff will have to both, kill and save from being killed, generating enough uncertainty field, which would cause a temporal rip in the non graphene fabric of the Universe and taking the world back in time before the experiment takes place. Actually we are already in the 26th iteration of this loop. The int

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I've seen a case where the bullet was stopped by a ballistic plate but the impact force ruptured the guys intestines. Having a bone break from a non-penetration happens more often than one might think.

      If the material can absorb that impact shock to the tissue while offering higher levels of protection, it's a godsend.

      Until the industry leaps to fill the gap for Level VI penetrating ammunition at least.

  • by RevWaldo ( 1186281 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @12:55AM (#48489143)
    Graphene's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
    It's a shirt, it's a sock, it's a glove, it's a hat!
    But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that!
    You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
    Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!

    Out of the old physics lab
    Comes some more graphene
    Answering humanity's
    Each and every need

    Everybody do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do
    Needs graphene!

    It isn't just a tanning vest
    Use it for a hammock
    When you need rest
    It's a toothbrush holder
    For your weekend guest
    Your canary will love it,
    It's a lovely nest
    Try it in soup-
    It adds great zest
    It'll cure those
    Backache pains in your chest

    Everybody do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do
    Needs graphene!

    You'll be amazed
    you'll be nonplussed
    It tastes like bread
    without the crust
    Grooms your hair
    when it gets mussed
    Rids your home of dismal dust
    It's a natural, it's a must
    Eliminates carburetor rust

    Everybody do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do
    Needs graphene!

    It's super duper hooper hyper
    Makes a perfect windshield wiper
    Foolproof trap to catch a viper
    we've no complaints from any griper
    Papa smokes 'em in his piper
    Baby says "boy, what a diaper!"

    Everybody do-do-do-do-do-do
    Everybody do-do-do-do-do-do
    Everybody do-do-do-do needs graphene!!

  • Microscopic guys wrapped in microscopic graphene body armour,
    protected from microscopic bullets.

    It's the way of the future man.

    I want some of what he's smoking.

  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @06:23AM (#48489973)
    Kevlar tactical vests, being essentially a ballistic, polymer weave, have a shelf life of only about 3-5 years or so before they lose their power to slow and stop bullets. Apparently the strength of the polymer degrades over time, especially with repeat exposure so heat and UV. I would be curious if the graphene-based body armor is stronger and with a longer shelf life.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Informative)

      by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @10:42AM (#48490639) Journal

      Kevlar tactical vests, being essentially a ballistic, polymer weave, have a shelf life of only about 3-5 years or so before they lose their power to slow and stop bullets.

      No they don't.

      They are GIVEN a shelf life of 3-5 years based on lab tests interpreted in such a way that the continuous chain of procurement of such vests by the police and the military is maintained AND so the producers of said vests could cover their asses in court in case it's needed.
      "See, your honor, evidence shows that the officer Smith exposed his vest to higher temperature and UV light than what is written on the label. Ergo, it is his fault that high velocity round our client's vest wasn't ever designed for, not to say that it isn't the greatest vest out there, wasn't stopped by the said vest which is still a perfectly safe vest if you buy it brand new every 3-5 years."

      Back in reality, you'd need to either soak it in strong acid or expose it to direct UV for hundreds of hours for the fibers to lose a significant part of their tensile strength i.e. bullet stopping abilities.
      450 hours of direct UV will degrade 4500 denier kevlar to ~65% and 1500 denier kevlar to ~35%.
      900 hours will knock it further to ~48% and ~23%, respectfully.

      Even then, that only means that the TOP LAYER is degraded. Kevlar is not transparent. It degrades because it absorbs UV light.
      And that's IF it was worn on top of other clothes, without any kind of a liner or protective or decorative impregnation.
      I.e. If police were running around in banana-yellow ponchos for protection from bullets.

      It's in the specs [dupont.com] and real-life tests by people who are re-selling USED police kevlar vests confirm it. [bulletproofme.com]

      It's plastic. The stuff that will take millions of years to degrade out of the ecosystem.

  • by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Sunday November 30, 2014 @11:15AM (#48490773) Homepage

    >We cannot use conventional techniques such as a gun barrel or gunpowder [on this scale]

    this means they essentially made bulletproof vest for a LEGO figurine, or a green army men

    > 2000mph by the gases produced by laser pulses rapidly evaporating a gold film

    yep, it will work great next time someone wants to shoot a speck of DUST at you

  • Just go straight to the Ell Donsaii author and ask him how he feels about the technological potential of carbon.

    (for the humor impaired, I'm kidding. Ell Donsaii novels are like soap operas for nerds, kind of like "so bad, they're good" movies. I recommend reading the first book to see if you like it, and I believe the first book is free as an e-book on Kindle. It's not until a couple books later that you get into the really scifi stuff.)

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.