Bulletproof technology has certainly come a long way since Marty McFly bluffed his way through that Wild West shootout, as evidenced by this incredible video of a bullet getting a taste of its own medicine courtesy of the next big thing in body armor.
Designed by Afsaneh Rabiei of North Carolina State University, the projectile-smashing material on show consists primarily of a super-strong yet ultra-light composite metal foam (CMF), made of hollow steel spheres – each measuring 2 millimeters in diameter – embedded in a stainless steel matrix. While you’d probably expect a bullet to make mincemeat of such a squishy substance, the foam actually absorbs the kinetic energy of the moving ammunition.
The CMF is sandwiched between a strike face made of boron carbide – one of the hardest synthetic materials known to man – and a backplate of either aluminum or a synthetic high tensile fiber called Kevlar. In total, the three-layered armor is less than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) thick.
In order to test the strength of the foam-based shield, researchers shot it using two different types of bullets as required by official National Institute of Justice (NIJ) guidelines. According to NIJ standards, an armor plating must be able to withstand being struck by both M80 and M2 armor piercing projectiles, leaving an indentation on the backplate of no more than 44 millimeters (1.7 inches).
Announcing the results of these trials, Rabiei explained that “the indentation on the back [of the armor] was less than 8 millimeters [0.3 inches].” The bullet, however, was not so lucky, and got blown to smithereens and back upon impact.
Detailing the experiments conducted using the CMF in the journal Composite Structures, the researchers behind the project indicate that materials such as this could provide a lighter, stronger and more cost-effective alternative to current military body armors.