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IPFS News Link • Inventions

New protein-based armor material can withstand supersonic impacts

•, By Nick Lavars

Researchers at the University of Kent have followed in these footsteps to developed a protein-based family of synthetic materials that can withstand supersonic impacts and which they see one day finding use in military and space applications.

Like another interesting advance in material science we looked at back in 2016, the team's creation uses the unique properties of a protein as a starting point. Where that previous example took advantage of a protein's counter-intuitive compression capabilities, the University of Kent team has drilled into the natural shock-absorbing abilities of a protein called talin, and used it to create a family of hydrogel materials called TSAMs (Talin Shock Absorbing Materials).

"Our work on the protein talin, which is the cells' natural shock absorber, has shown that this molecule contains a series of binary switch domains which open under tension and refold again once tension drops," study author Professor Ben Goult explained. "This response to force gives talin its molecular shock absorbing properties, protecting our cells from the effects of large force changes. When we polymerized talin into a TSAM, we found the shock absorbing properties of talin monomers imparted the material with incredible properties."

In testing, the team's novel material proved capable of absorbing impacts from projectiles traveling at 1.5 km (0.93 miles) per second, deep in supersonic speed territory which begins at Mach 1 – around 343 m (1,125 ft) per second. The team notes this is much faster than the projectiles you'd expect from a firearm which travel from 0.4 to 1 km (0.24 to 0.62 miles) per second, and faster than most particles whizzing through space, typically in excess of 1 km (0.62 miles) per second.