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Ballistic Protection 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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T he dream for the future of body armor is a garment as comfortable as a polo shirt that can stop rifle fire. Mak- ing that dream a reality will involve research into two types of exotic materials: spider silk and graphene. Today, all ballistic protection is inorganic. It's made of steel, ceramic, ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, and a vari- ety of aramid fibers. In the future it may be made of biological material. Using spider silk, which by mass is five times stronger than steel and much more flexible than any ballistic fiber, has long been the obsession of some armor researchers. But it's never re- ally made it past the realm of lab work and speculation. Maybe in the next 10 years that could change. One major obstacle is that scientists have decided the silk of the black widow is their best option for making armor. Raising a bunch of black widows to harvest that silk is a big PoliceMag.com/CriticalIncidentResponse Read POLICE Magazine's SPECIAL REPORT on CRITICAL INCIDENT RESPONSE! EDITORIAL HIGHLIGHTS • Working with the Media After a Critical Incident • Evolution of Critical Incident Communications • Bomb Threats and Suspicious Packages • Preplanning Response to School Shootings • PTSD in the Police K-9 POL05-1120.19 READ IT WHERE YOU NEED IT! 14 | SP E C I A L R E P O RT | B A L L I S T IC PR O T E C T IO N PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES David Griffith The Ballistic Armor Materials of the Future Sound Like Science Fiction problem because each spider has to be housed separately or there will be spider wars. One proposed solution has been to genetically modify tomato plants to produce black widow silk. Which is why maybe sheets of carbon atoms called "graphene" are a better option. is material is 100 times stronger than steel, and in 2017 researchers at the City Univer- sity of New York discovered that two one-atom-thick sheets of graphene can stop really powerful bullets. e stuff hardens into something researchers call "diamine" when it gets hit by a projectile. Part of the statement from CUNY's Advanced Science Re- search Center reads: "Imagine a material as flexible and light- weight as foil that becomes stiff and hard enough to stop a bul- let on impact." Research on spider silk, graphene, and other materials for producing the next evolution of armor is ongoing. n

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