Researchers at UT Dallas have created a new type of fibre which makes use of its electromechanical properties to absorb energy. This new material can absorb up to 98 joules per gram while Kevlar, often used to make bulletproof vests can absorb up to 80 joules per gram before it breaks.
The researchers hope these new fibres will one day be used to form material that can reinforce itself at points of high stress and could potentially be used in military airplanes or body armour.
The team sought to mimic their earlier work on the piezoelectric action, where pressure is converted into electrical charges on collagen fibres found in human bones. For their experiment, researchers recreated these collagen fibres by spinning a material called polyvinylidene fluoride and its co-polymer, polyvinvylidene fluoride trifluoroethylene into nano fibres, these strands were then twisted into yarns.
The electricity generated by stretching the twisted nano fibre formed an attraction 10 times stronger than a hydrogen bond, which is considered one of the strongest forces formed between molecules. The result is a material that can absorb a huge amount of energy before it fails.
Dr. Majid Minary, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and senior author in the study that was published in the ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces said;
Our experiment is proof of the concept that our structures can absorb more energy before failure than the materials conventionally used in bulletproof armours, we believe, modelled after the human bone, that this flexibility and strength comes from the electricity that occurs when these nano fibres are twisted.
Currently these new fibres are very small and so the next step in the research is to make larger structures out of the yarns and coils and work out a way to manufacture the materials in bulk.