Armor that prevents bullets from traveling at the speed of sound developed by British scientists

(University of Kent)

A new body armor capable of preventing bullets from traveling at the speed of sound has been developed by British scientists.

The material could provide security for military and law enforcement personnel, as well as protect aircraft and spacecraft from flying debris.

The protective suit is light and comfortable to wear and contains a protein found in human cells. Known as talin, it reforms in response to outside forces.

Project leader Professor Benjamin Goult from the University of Kent explained: “Each molecule has 13 ‘switches’ which can deploy when a force is applied.

“These fold up after the force is removed – allowing for shock absorption.”

His team matched the ends of three, then bound them together using water and a gelling agent to form a mesh.

When something hits, the energy deploys the modified talin rather than being converted to heat – as is the case with existing materials, he said.

In experiments, a piston fired tiny basalt particles and larger shrapnel at a specimen placed in front of an aluminum plate.

Even at supersonic speeds of a mile per second – twice as fast as gun bullets – the frost stopped them in their tracks.

This opens the door to next-generation bulletproof armour, reports New Scientist.

Professor Goult said: “Talin is the natural shock absorber of cells. It contains a series of binary switching domains that open under voltage and fold back again when the voltage drops.

“This force response gives talin its incredible properties, protecting our cells from the effects of large force changes.”

The current body armor has a bulky ceramic face with a fiber reinforced composite backing.

While effective at stopping bullets and flying debris, it is ineffective against “kinetic energy” – which can cause physical trauma to the body below.

Additionally, due to reduced structural integrity, it frequently suffers permanent damage after a hit unless it is continuously used.

Talin-based alternatives are a viable replacement for existing conventional technologies.

Professor Goult said: “It provides lighter and more durable armor protecting the wearer from a wider range of injuries – including those caused by impact.”

Energy-dissipating materials are needed to effectively collect space debris, dust, and tiny meteoroids for scientific investigation.

They can trap and store projectiles after impact and help build expensive equipment, increasing the durability and safety of astronauts.

They can also replace aerogels used in industry which tend to melt due to temperature increases caused by the impact of projectiles.

The team is currently working with a company to develop the gel as a component of body armor.

Other proteins tagged with markers can bind talin. Damage could be identified by adding a fluorescent protein.

Professor Goult said: “There is an analogy to autopilots in airplanes. Many private planes do not contain autopilots.

The study was published on the scientific website bioRxiv.

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