MLF - Military Logistics

AFRL experiments with artificial silk for body armour

8th August 2018 - 15:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


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The US Air Force (USAF) Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Purdue University are experimenting to develop a functional fibre that can be woven into sizeable, flexible fabrics using existing textile manufacturing methods, the USAF announced on 3 August.

Researchers are studying the cooling and temperature regulation properties of natural silk in order to apply it to synthetic fibres such as artificial spider silk, which is stronger than the polymer known commercially as Kevlar and more flexible than nylon.

Silk possesses passive radiative-cooling properties, which means that it radiates more heat than it absorbs when in direct sunlight. On hot summer days, silk drops 10°-15° Fahrenheit when compared to reflective materials.

Bulletproof vests and parachutes are two articles that could potentially be constructed with artificial spider silk. Parachutes constructed of the new material will be stronger and able to carry larger payloads, while tents would enable soldiers to work in a cooler environment.

Fibroin, a silk protein secreted by the silkworm, can be processed into a lightweight material for fabricating artificially engineered synthetic and optical materials. The structured optical materials can reflect, absorb, concentrate or split light enabling a material to perform differently in a specific situation.

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