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Posted: January 17, 2007
Carbon nanofibers strengthen Humvees
(Nanowerk News) Ohio researchers are creating stronger armor to protect U.S. troops riding in Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hope is to have the armor developed within a year to protect against the roadside bombs that cause the majority of American casualties.
Brian Rice, a chemical engineer at the University of Dayton Research Institute, is incorporating microscopic carbon nanofibers to strengthen the armor so it can withstand shrapnel and high-velocity bullets.
"If we double the effectiveness, that would be huge," Rice said.
The armor is being developed under a five-year, $15 million Army research contract.
Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Delgado, of Columbus-based Lima Company, 3 rd Battalion, 25 th Marines, said he welcomes any improvements.
Humvees were never designed to carry the extra weight of heavier armor, he said. Suspensions, transmissions and engines suffer.
"If we had the same strength or more strength at half the weight, it would help," said Delgado, who was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket attack in Iraq.
He has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and is back in Columbus now.
In June, Army spokesman John Boyce Jr. said more than 25,300 armored Humvees are in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Dayton scientists are working with TPI Composites, in Springfield, on an all-composite armored vehicle for the Army, and Armor Holdings, of Fairfield, which makes and installs steel plates in military Humvees.
In the realm of nanotechnology, carbon nanofibers are considered large. Still, a stack of 1,000 would equal the diameter of a human hair.
They work because billions of tiny particles have a surface area much greater than smaller numbers of larger particles, just as a pile of sawdust has more surfaces than the original block of wood.
"You have a 100-fold increase in surface area, so you have a lot more energy dissipation," Rice said.
Composites are layers of material held together by a gluelike resin made even stickier by the increased surface area.
The technology also can toughen components for aircraft wings and propellers, said Gerald Glasgow, a scientist at Applied Sciences, in Cedarville, which is supplying the carbon nanofibers for the armor research.
These nanofibers have unique electrical and chemical properties as well, Glasgow said, and could allow a tank crew, for example, to monitor armor for battle damage.