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Nanocomposite Body Armor from T-Shirts

March 16, 2010

Using cotton t-shirts as both a template and a carbon source Xiaodong ("Chris") Li and colleagues from Hangzhou/China and Zurich/Switzerland were able to make  large quantities of radially-aligned high-strength B4C nanowires.

Download the paper here:

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/123314249/HTMLSTART

See also:

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2010/March/16031001.asp

It is well know that bulk B4C is a brittle ceramic material. However, the B4C nanowires grown on cotton T-shirts are not brittle, but ductile. The cotton fibers transform to carbon fibers during the synthesis and exhibit high strength and stiffness.

B4C is used as body armor material. The B4C nanowires keep the same strength and stiffness of the bulk B4C. The unique property that the B4C nanowires have is super-elasticity up to a strain of 45%.  This renders its composite materials ultrahigh toughness. Li  argues that him team should be able to fabricate much tougher body armors using this new technique

Furthermore, these B4C nanowire-carbon microfiber hybrid structures can block almost all ultraviolet (UV) irradiation.