Amazing things can happen when experts in their fields share their knowledge and collaborate to produce new science. In one of the latest examples of this, researchers from the fields of materials physics, chemistry, and forensic science have joined forces to develop a new ultra-strong material capable of stopping particles traveling at hypersonic speeds. From armor to suits and impenetrable spaceships, the possibilities that open up are truly endless.
The science and other stuff to know
An interdisciplinary team from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom has developed an ultra-resistant material based on talin, which is a protein that works as a natural absorbent for cells. The resulting material, called TSAM (Talin Shock Absorbing Materials), can retain enormous amounts of energy, stopping projectiles that pass through it.
The talin inside the material acts as a net that receives and dissipates the force, recovering its original shape after impact, so that its structure is not significantly damaged after an impact, and can be used again. The findings were published in the journal BioRxiv.
In military armor, for example, materials such as ceramics and carbon fibers are capable of stopping a projectile but they do not dissipate its kinetic energy, causing it to reach the user’s body. In addition, once they have received an impact they become obsolete since the structural damage of the material is impossible to reverse.
“Our work on the protein talin, which is the cells’ natural shock absorber, has shown that this molecule contains a series of binary switch domains which open under tension and refold again once tension drops. This response to force gives talin its molecular shock absorbing properties, protecting our cells from the effects of large force changes,” lead author Ben Goult explained in an official University of Kent press release.
To measure the resistance of the TSAM, the researchers bombarded a chunk of this new material with basalt particles at 1.5 km/s (0.9 m/s) and aluminum chunks at similar speeds. In addition to successfully resisting impacts, the material could be used again.
In addition to optimizing military and civilian armor and protection, this new material could be used in space clothing to create ultra-resistant suits that protect astronauts from the impacts of particles traveling at high speeds during their spacewalks.
In the same way, the TSAM could be used in the manufacture of ships and space modules that require protection from energetic space dust collisions.
“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 potential translation possibilities of 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,” said Jen Hiscock, co-author of the paper.