July 9, 2010
In April 2010, NATO sponsored a two-week workshop in Split, Croatia, chaired by Paul Kiekens of Ghent University, Belgium, to study technologies to combat military threats, including ballistic hazards. Ballistic protection topics included unidirectional layers, 3D structures, and the effect of weave and fabric structures. Workshop presenter and organizing committee member Seshadri Ramkumar, associate professor at Texas Tech University, said, "Recently, attention has focused on using carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles, such as boron and silicon carbides, to improve the toughness of ballistic materials. However, adding the particles during the production of high-performance polymeric materials may not be advantageous, as it may cause phase separation and compromise important properties. These [nanoparticles] can be added during the garmenting stage by coating and laminating the base armor fabrics, woven broadsheet fabrics, etc."
Philip Cunniff, of the Ballistics Technology Team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center (NSRDEC), stresses the multi-directional approach to improving body armor. "The science of materials at the length scale of nanometers (nanotechnology), the development of new materials, and the applications of principles of material science will each likely contribute to those approaches. So will system-level engineering; the way components are assembled will affect the system performance," says Cunniff.