Law enforcement agencies and the military might one day be able to make use of bulletproof graphene when creating lightweight, yet even more effective protective vests or armor suits for police officers and soldiers. This is due to a new breakthrough where scientists used two graphene layers to create a new material that may be soft and light, but also capable of becoming harder than diamond once it comes in contact with bullets, or other fast-moving solid objects.
The unusual material that could be used for such applications is known as diamene, and is created by placing two pieces of graphene on top of each other at room temperature. While it is flexible in normal situations, and as thin as a piece of aluminum foil, according to the International Business Times, it can become hard and rigid once put under pressure. This could mean the material is capable of stopping bullets if they were shot through it.
In a new study published this week in Nature Nanotechnology, a team of researchers from the City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center detailed how they came up with the bulletproof graphene-based material, starting from the time they conceptualized it via computer simulations. According to the Daily Mail, the scientists then tested their theories by using an atomic force microscope to place pressure on graphene layers, as they confirmed “diamond-like properties,” only when they used no more and no less than two layers.
“This is the thinnest film with the stiffness and hardness of diamond ever created,” explained lead researcher Elisa Riedo, a physics professor at CUNY, in a statement.
“Previously, when we tested graphite or a single atomic layer of graphene, we would apply pressure and feel a very soft film. But when the graphite film was exactly two-layers thick, all of a sudden we realized that the material under pressure was becoming extremely hard and as stiff, or stiffer, than bulk diamond.”
As further explained by the Daily Mail, graphene is derived from graphite, and has several other potential applications, including advances in aircraft, display, sensor, and semiconductor technology, as well as quantum physics. It is a layer of carbon atoms bound together in a hexagonal network, and is frequently described as “atomic-scale chicken wire.”
The CUNY team’s bulletproof graphene technique is not the first time researchers have tried to create materials that could lead to lighter, more comfortable protective armor. Earlier this year, researchers from the Air Force Academy created a substance that didn’t just potentially allow for the creation of lightweight armor, but also proved effective in stopping bullets that were fired at close range. Futurism wrote that the newly-developed diamene might show similar potential as a means for the military space to lighten the armor won by soldiers in battle.
Although diamene has yet to be tested outside of the experiments conducted by the CUNY team for their study, the researchers believe that their findings could lead to further research on graphite-to-diamond transitions in two-dimensional materials, the International Business Times wrote. Upcoming studies could look into ways in which the transition process can be made more stable, as well as other potential bulletproof graphene applications.