Researchers at Northwestern University have nanoengineered a new kind of fiber that could be tougher than Kevlar.
Working in a multidisciplinary team that includes groups from other universities and the MER Corporation, Horacio Espinosa, James N. and Nancy J. Farley Professor in Manufacturing & Entrepreneurship at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and his group have created a high performance fiber from carbon nanotubes and a polymer that is remarkably tough, strong, and resistant to failure. Using state-of-the-art in-situ electron microscopy testing methods, the group was able to test and examine the fibers at many different scales from the nano scale up to the macro scale which helped them understand just exactly how tiny interactions affect the material's performance. Their results were recently published in the journal ACS Nano.
"We want to create new-generation fibers that exhibit both superior strength and toughness," said Espinosa said. "A big issue in engineering fibers is that they are either strong or ductile we want a fiber that is both. The fibers we fabricated show very high ductility and a very high toughness. They can absorb and dissipate large amounts of energy before failure. We also observed that the strength of the material stays very, very high, which has not been shown before. These fibers can be used for a wide variety of defense and aerospace applications."
The project is part of the Department of Defense's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program, which supports research by teams of investigators that intersect more than one traditional science and engineering discipline. Espinosa and his collaborators received $7.5 million from the U.S. Army Research Office for the study of disruptive fibers, which could be used in bulletproof vests, parachutes, or composite materials used in vehicles, airplanes and satellites.
To create the new fiber, researcher
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