Innovative new shock absorbing material can stop supersonic impacts

impact blast

Researchers have created a new synthetic biology material that can stop supersonic impacts. It could have numerous practical applications, such as state-of-the-art bulletproof armor.

Scientists have created and patented an innovative new shock-absorbing material that could revolutionize the planetary science and defense industries. The breakthrough was made by a team at the University of Kent, led by Professors Ben Goult and Jen Hiscock.

Called TSAM (Talin Shock Absorbing Materials), this new family of protein-based materials represents the first known example of a SynBio (or synthetic biology) material capable of absorbing shock from supersonic projectiles. It opens the door for the development of next-generation bulletproof armor and projectile catching materials to enable the study of hypervelocity impacts in space and the upper atmosphere (astrophysics).

Professor Ben Goult explained: “Our work on the protein talin, which is the natural shock absorber of cells, has shown that this molecule contains a series of binary switch domains that open under stress and retract once the stress is dropped. . This response to force gives talin its shock-absorbing molecular properties, protecting our cells from the effects of large changes in force. When we polymerized talin in a TSAM, we found that the shock-absorbing properties of the talin monomers imparted incredible properties to the material.”

The team went on to demonstrate the real-world application of TSAMs, subjecting this hydrogel material to supersonic impacts of 1.5 km/s (3,400 mph), a speed faster than particles in space that impact so much. on natural and man-made objects (usually > 1 km). /s) and the muzzle velocities of firearms, which are typically between 0.4 and 1.0 km/s (900 and 2,200 mph). Furthermore, the team found that TSAMs can not only absorb the impact of basalt particles (~60 µM in diameter) and larger pieces of aluminum shrapnel, but can also preserve these projectiles after impact.

Today’s body armor tends to consist of a ceramic face backed by a fiber-reinforced composite, which is heavy and cumbersome. Additionally, while this armor is effective at blocking bullets and shrapnel, it does not block the kinetic energy that can cause blunt trauma behind the armor. Furthermore, this form of armor is often irreversibly damaged after impact, due to compromised structural integrity, preventing further use. This makes the incorporation of TSAM into new armor designs a potential alternative to these traditional technologies, providing lighter, more durable armor that also protects the wearer against a broader range of injuries, including those caused by blows.

Additionally, the ability of TSAMs to capture and preserve projectiles after impact makes them applicable within the aerospace sector, where there is a need for energy dissipative materials to enable effective collection of space debris, space dust, and micrometeoroids for later use. Scientific study. In addition, these captured projectiles facilitate the design of aerospace equipment, improving the safety of astronauts and the longevity of expensive aerospace equipment. Here, TSAMs could provide an alternative to industry-standard aerogels, which can melt due to temperature rise as a result of projectile impact.

Professor Jen Hiscock said: “This project arose from an interdisciplinary collaboration between fundamental biology, chemistry and materials science that has resulted in the production of this amazing new class of materials. We are very excited about the possible possibilities of translating TSAMs to solve real world problems. This is something we are actively investigating with the support of new collaborators within the aerospace and defense sectors.”

Reference: “Next Generation Protein-Based Materials Capture and Preserve Projectiles from Supersonic Impacts” by Jack A. Doolan, Luke S. Alesbrook, Karen B. Baker, Ian R. Brown, George T. Williams, Jennifer R. Hiscock and Benjamin T Goult, November 29, 2022, bioRxiv.
DOI: 10.1101/2022.11.29.518433

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