Graphene Can Stop a Speeding Bullet
Experiments showed that graphene is 10 times better than steel at absorbing the energy of a penetrating projectile.
At a miniature firing range, scientists shot tiny bullets into a sheet of carbon atoms to test its strength. The results could lead to heavy-duty but lightweight armor that protects humans from projectiles.
Until now, researchers knew that a sheet of carbon atoms, known as graphene, was super strong. But they hadn't test just how strong.
So, materials scientist Edwin Thomas and Jae-Hwang Lee, now an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, decided to experiment.
They set up a miniature firing range comprised of a laser - used to vaporize gold filaments for gunpowder - micron-sized glass bullets and 10 o 100 stacked sheets of graphene for targets. When fired, the bullets flew through the air at 600 meters per second, according to the researchers).
Upon impact, the sheets of graphene absorbed twice as much impact as Kevlar, the material commonly used in bullet-proof vests, and did tens time better than steel.
Because graphene is so thin and so lightweight, it could be scaled up and embedded in human-sized bullet-proof vests worn by law enforcement or military personnel.
Scientists still haven't figured out how to make large-scale sheets of graphene, but many are working to make that happen.
The team published their results in this week's issue of Science.
Credit: Jae-Hwang Lee
A sheet of graphene is thin, just a single atom thick.