Carbon nanotubes could be a Kevlar killer

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

A firm named Nanocomp Technologies is being funded by the Pentagon to develop lightweight vehicle and body armor. CNN reports:

In April, Lashmore had a mechanical multicaliber gun shoot bullets at different versions of his sheet, each less than a fifth of an inch thick, at a speed of 1,400 feet per second. Four sheets were breached, but three showed no damage. Lashmore and his 35 employees were ecstatic.

“We didn’t expect it to work at all,” he admits.

According to Nanocomp’s website.

our spun conductive yarns exhibit breaking strengths up to 3 GPa expressed or in other terms: 1.5 Nt/Tex or 450,000 psi and with fracture toughness that is higher than aramids (such as Kevlar® or Twaron®). Our CNT sheets have breaking strengths, without binders, that range from 500 MPa to 1.2 GPa depending upon tube orientation. Aluminum breaks at 500 MPa, carbon steel breaks around 1 GPa.

Extremely Lightweight – Less than half the weight of aluminum

Not being an engineer or physicist, I really don’t know what to make of their claims. Feel free to chime if you understand this stuff.

Many thanks to Mark for emailing me the link.

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

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  • Clodboy Clodboy on Sep 22, 2009

    jdun: AFAIK, the US Armed Forces and various law enforcement agencies have been trying to phase out Kevlar in favor of Zylon, although that too seems to be falling out of favor now that it has been discovered to degrade fairly quickly over time.

    So yes, High Modulus Polyethylene ("Dyneema") is probably the way to go for the time being.

  • Mu Mu on Sep 22, 2009

    To give you an idea on today's pricing, I just ordered a kg of "low grade" MWNT for $3.5k. This is still a factor of 10 above the guy's target price. Unless he's not really using nanotubes but nanofibers, those can be had for 1k/kg. But those are hard to get untangled at reasonable length.