3D printed plastic cubes with patterns that can stop bullets

The patterns of the cubes are based on tubulans, which are microscopic structures made of carbon nanotubes.

3D printed plastic cubes with patterns that can stop bullets

3D printed plastic cubes with patterns that can stop bullets.

A group of researchers at Rice University found a way to print complex 3D patterns that result in plastic cubes that are almost as hard as diamond, and in the form of cubes they can hold high-caliber bullets.

The secret lies in the complex cross-linking patterns used to build the structures of the polymer (plastic) cubes. Each pattern is calculated and designed to give strength to the structure.

According to scientists, the cube patterns are based on tubulans, which are theoretical microscopic structures made of cross-linked carbon nanotubes. Tubulans could be used to make revolutionary materials that are strong and light.

Structure of tubulans

The Rice University researchers replicated the patterns and structures of the tubulans, but in plastic with 3D printers and the material maintains extreme strength and compressibility, without being carbon.

The researchers made two cubes, one made of solid polymer and the other made of a polymer printed with a tubular structure. During a test, they used a projectile that traveled at 5.8 kilometers per second in order to pass through them.

They contain the force of a bullet

The result? Despite the strong impact of the bullet none of the cubes were destroyed. There was relatively little damage to the cubes.

The assumption is that a polymeric porous structure reduces the stopping power of the object, but in practice, the complex polymer network in these cubes makes them capable of compressing to absorb the kinetic energy of a bullet impact.

The research could have far-reaching effects on countless fields that depend on materials that are both light and strong. From aerospace to architecture, even military.


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