Bulletproof vests are often bulky and use heavy equipment. Although it is used to protect police or the army, this type of “armor” does tend to restrict movement. Researchers are currently studying the potential of graphene to solve this problem. Graphene is a layer of carbon atoms that are stuck tightly to each other which is a million times thinner than a sheet of paper.
Graphene is a miracle material. It is a simple two-dimensional sheet composed of carbon atoms which are arranged in a hexagonal pattern. The material, which has a thickness of a single carbon atom, could potentially dethrone silicon. It could potentially pave the way for more efficient computers which are faster and smaller. Graphene can be used to make touch screens, light panels and possibly solar cells as it is virtually transparent and is as good a conductor as copper. But what about it’s protection abilities?
Researchers at New York City’s Advanced Science Research Center have recently discovered that two layers of graphene stacked on top of one another could temporarily become as hard as diamond. When struck by a bullet it could be just as impenetrable provided that the two sheets are correctly aligned. The new material, called diamene hardens only when two layers of graphene are superimposed, according to the study published in Nature Nanotechnology. If more sheets of graphene are stacked on top this hardened effect disappears.
“Previously, when we tested graphite or a single atomic layer of graphene, we would apply pressure and feel a very soft film,” explained Elisa Riedo, a Physics professor at ASRC and leading author of this research. “But when the graphite film was exactly two-layers thick, all of a sudden we realized that the material under pressure was becoming extremely hard and as stiff, or stiffer, than bulk diamond,” she continued.
Once more research is carried out bulletproof vests and other protective armor could become more resistant and, in particular, much lighter. If this material is developed further, it will be interesting to see it’s potential influence in future warfare. If soldiers start wearing light, bullet-proof armor perhaps new weapons will be developed which can penetrate this defense. We already know that the United States is currently working on developing and designing laser weapons.