Researcher uses bullets to study plastics

Published: November 20, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Materials, Design

HOUSTON (Nov. 20, 11:45 a.m. ET) — Researchers at Rice University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have carried out nanoscale investigations into what happens when bullets hit objects in an attempt to learn more about material properties.

The research, led by Ned Thomas, dean of the George Brown School of Engineering at Rice, uncovered a “surprising amount of information” about how block copolymers, such as polyurethane, dissipate the strain of sudden impact.

The goal is to find novel ways to make materials more impervious to deformation or failure, which can help make stronger and lighter body armor, jet engine turbine blades for aircraft, and cladding to protect spacecraft and satellites from micrometeorites and space junk.

The researchers were inspired by their observations in macroscopic ballistic tests in which a complex multiblock copolymer polyurethane material showed the ability to not only stop a 9 mm bullet but also seal the entryway behind it.

“The polymer has actually arrested the bullet and sealed it. There’s no macroscopic damage; the material hasn’t failed; it hasn’t cracked. You can still see through it. This would be a great ballistic windshield material,” Thomas said in a news release.

“We want to find out why this polyurethane works the way it does. Theoretically, no one understood why this particular kind of material – which has nanoscale features of glassy and rubbery domains – would be so good at dissipating energy,” he said.

One problem, Thomas said, is that cutting the polymer to analyze it on the nanoscale “would take days.” The researchers sought a model material that would react similarly at the nanoscale and could be analyzed much faster. They found one in a polystyrene-polydimethylsiloxane diblock-copolymer, which self-assembles into alternating 20-nanometer layers of glassy and rubbery polymers, and the disruption pattern from impact can be clearly seen.

The results showed several expected deformation mechanisms and the unexpected result that for sufficiently high velocities, the layered material melted into a homogeneous liquid that seemed to help arrest the projectile and, like the polymer, seal its entry path. The copolymer also behaved differently depending on where the spheres hit. The material showed the best ability to dissipate the energy of impact when spheres were fired perpendicular to the layers, Thomas said.

Thomas would like to extend testing to other lightweight, nanostructured materials like boron nitride, carbon nanotube-reinforced composites and graphite and graphene-based materials. The ultimate goal, he said, is to accelerate the design of metamaterials with precise control of their nano- and microstructures for a variety of applications.


Comments

Researcher uses bullets to study plastics

Published: November 20, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

DuPont investing $100 million for more ethylene copolymer capacity

September 16, 2014 1:51 pm ET

Increased packaging demand is leading materials giant DuPont Co. to spend more than $100 million to increase capacity for ethylene copolymers at its...    More

Image

Latvian plastics recycler Nordic Plast boosts capacity

September 16, 2014 10:15 am ET

Latvian plastics waste recycler Nordic Plast Ltd. has invested more than 2.5 million euros ($3.2 million) to expand capacity and modernize production ...    More

Image

Sabic, Chinese Academy of Sciences sign five-year development agreement

September 15, 2014 11:54 am ET

Ties between one of the world's biggest oil producers and one of its biggest consumers grew tighter Sept. 12 with the announcement of a five-year...    More

Image

BASF analyzes products based on sustainability potential

September 15, 2014 11:48 am ET

Chemicals giant BASF SE has created a new process for managing its product portfolio based on sustainability criteria.    More

Image

China's Zhongtai Chemical calls off large-scale PVC project

September 12, 2014 2:16 pm ET

Accepting the gloomy reality of the PVC market, Xinjiang Zhongtai Chemical Co. Ltd. has officially canceled a 800,000-ton PVC resin project and instea...    More

Market Reports

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events