Tag Archives: body armour

Comfortable, bulletproof clothing for Canada’s Department of National Defence

h/t to Miriam Halpenny’s October 14, 2019 Castanet article as seen on the Vancouverisawesome website for this news about bulletproof clothing being developed for Canada’s National Department of Defence. I found a September 4, 2019 University of British Columbia Okanagan news release describing the research and the funds awarded to it,

The age-old technique of dressing in layers is a tried and tested way to protect from the elements. Now thanks to $1.5 million in new funding for UBC’s Okanagan campus, researchers are pushing the practice to new limits by creating a high-tech body armour solution with multiple layers of protection against diverse threats.

“Layers are great for regulating body heat, protecting us from inclement weather and helping us to survive in extreme conditions,” says Keith Culver, director of UBC’s Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) initiative, which is supporting the network of researchers who will be working together over the next three years. “The idea is to design and integrate some of the most advanced fabrics and materials into garments that are comfortable, practical and can even stop a bullet.”

The research network working to develop these new Comfort-Optimized Materials For Operational Resilience, Thermal-transport and Survivability (COMFORTS) aims to create a futuristic new body armour solution by combining an intelligent, moisture-wicking base layer that has insulating properties with a layer of lightweight, ballistic-resistant material using cross-linker technology. It will also integrate a water, dust and gas repellent outer layer and will be equipped with comfort sensors to monitor the wearer’s response to extreme conditions.

“Although the basic idea seems simple, binding all these different materials and technologies together into a smart armour solution that is durable, reliable and comfortable is incredibly complex,” says Kevin Golovin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UBCO and principal investigator of the COMFORTS research network. “We’re putting into practice years of research and expertise in materials science to turn the concept into reality.”

The COMFORTS network is a collaboration between the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and the University of Victoria and is supported by a number of industrial partners. The network has received a $1.5M contribution agreement from the Department of National Defence through its Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program, designed to support innovation in defence and security.

“The safety and security threats faced by our military are ever-changing,” says Culver. “Hazards extend beyond security threats from foreign forces to natural disasters now occurring more frequently than ever before. Almost every year we’re seeing natural disasters, forest fires and floods that put not just ordinary Canadians at risk but also the personnel that respond directly to those threats. Our goal is to better protect those who put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us.”

While the initial COMFORTS technologies developed will be for defence and security applications, Culver says the potential extends well beyond the military.

“Imagine a garment that could keep its users comfortable and safe as they explore the tundra of the Canadian arctic, fight a raging forest fire or respond to a corrosive chemical spill,” says Culver. “I imagine everyone from first responders to soldiers to extreme athletes being impacted by this kind of innovation in protective clothing.”

The research will be ongoing with eight projects planned over the next three years. Some of the protective materials testing will take place at UBC’s STAR Impact Research Facility (SIRF), located just north of UBC’s Okanagan campus. The ballistic and blast simulation facility is the only one of its kind in Canada—it supports research and testing of ballistic and blast-resistant armour, ceramic and other composite materials, as well as helmets and other protective gear.

“I anticipate we will see some exciting new, field-tested technologies developed within the next few years,” says Culver. “I look forward to seeing where this collaboration will lead us.”

To learn more about the COMFORTS project, visit: ok.ubc.ca/okanagan-stories/textile-tech

UBC Expert Q&A

Western Canada primed to be defense and security research hotspot

World-class vineyards and sunny lakeside resorts have long been the reputation for BC’s Okanagan Valley. That reputation has expanded with Kelowna’s growth as a tech hub, according to Professor Keith Culver, director of UBC’s Survive and Thrive Research (STAR) initiative, but core expertise in defense and security research has also been rapidly expanding since UBC launched the STAR initiative five years ago.

Culver is a professor, legal theorist, self-described convener and coach with proven expertise assembling multi-disciplinary research teams working at the vanguard of innovation. One of these teams, led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kevin Golovin, was recently awarded a $1.5 million contract by the Department of National Defense to develop next-generation, high-performance body armour that increases the safety and comfort of Canadian soldiers.

What is UBC’s STAR initiative?

UBC STAR is a group of researchers and partners working together to solve human performance challenges. We know that solving complex problems requires a multi-disciplinary approach, so we build teams with specialized expertise from across both our campuses and other Western Canadian universities. Then we blend that expertise with the know-how and production capabilities of private and public sector partners to put solutions into practice. Above all, STAR helps university researchers and partners to work together in new, more productive ways.

You recently received considerable new funding from the Department of National Defence. Can you tell us about that research

A team of researchers from UBC, the University of Alberta and the University of Victoria have established a research network to invent and test new materials for the protection of humans operating in extreme environments – in this case, soldiers doing their jobs on foot. Assistant Professor Kevin Golovin of UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering is leading the network with support from UBC STAR. The network brings together three leading Western Canadian universities to work together with industry to develop new technologies for the defence and security sector.

The network is developing several kinds of protective materials and hazard sensors for use in protective armour for soldiers and first responders. The name of the network captures its focus nicely: Comfort-Optimized Materials For Operational Resilience, Thermal-transport and Survivabilty (COMFORTS). Researchers in engineering, chemistry and other disciplines are developing new textile technologies and smart armour solutions that will be rigorously tested for thermal resistance to increase soldier comfort. We’re fortunate to be working with a great group of companies ready to turn our research into solutions ready for use. We’ll help to solve the challenges facing Canadian first responders and soldiers while enabling Canadian companies to sell those solutions to international markets.

What does the safety and security landscape look like in Western Canada?

I think there’s a perception out there that this kind of research is only happening in places like Halifax, Toronto or Waterloo. Western Canadian expertise is sometimes overlooked by Ottawa and Toronto, but there’s incredible expertise and cutting-edge research happening here in the west, and we are fortunate to have a strong private sector partner community that understands safety and security problems in military contexts, and in forestry, mining and wildfire and flood response. Our understanding of hazardous environments gives us a head start in putting technologies and strategies to work safely in extreme conditions, and we’re coming to realize that our creative solutions can both help Canadians and others around the world.

Why do companies want to work with UBC STAR and its Western Canadian partners?

We have great researchers and great facilities – our blast simulator and ballistics range are second to none – but we offer much more than expertise and equipment. UBC STAR is fundamentally about making the most of collaboration. We work together with our partners to understand the nature of problems and what could contribute to a solution. We readily draw on expertise from multiple universities and firms to assemble the right team. And we know that we are in the middle of a great living lab for testing solutions –with rural and urban areas of varying sizes, climates and terrains. We’re situated in an ideal place to work through technology development, while identifying the strategies and standards needed to put innovative technology to good use.

How do you expect this sector to develop over the next decade?

I see a boom coming in this sector. In Canada, and around the world, we are witnessing a rise in natural disasters that put first responders and others at risk, and our research can help improve their safety. At the same time, we are seeing a rise in global political tensions calling for Canadian military deployment in peacekeeping and other support roles. Our military needs help protecting its members so they can do their jobs in dangerous places. And, of course, when we develop protective materials for first responders and soldiers, the same solutions can be easily adapted for use in sport and health – such as protecting children playing contact sports or our aging population from slip and fall injuries. I think I speak for everyone involved in this research when I say that it’s incredibly rewarding to see how solutions found addressing one question often have far broader benefits for Canadians in every walk of life.

To learn more about STAR, visit: star.ubc.ca

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Courtesy: UBC Okanagan

I have featured bulletproof clothing here in a November 4, 2013 posting featuring a business suit that included carbon nanotubes providing protection from bullets. Here’s where you can order one.

Hairy strength could lead to new body armour

A Jan. 18, 2017 news item on Nanowerk announces research into hair strength from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD or UC San Diego),

In a new study, researchers at the University of California San Diego investigate why hair is incredibly strong and resistant to breaking. The findings could lead to the development of new materials for body armor and help cosmetic manufacturers create better hair care products.

Hair has a strength to weight ratio comparable to steel. It can be stretched up to one and a half times its original length before breaking. “We wanted to understand the mechanism behind this extraordinary property,” said Yang (Daniel) Yu, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and the first author of the study.

A Jan. 18 (?), 2017 UCSD news release, which originated the news item, provides more information,

“Nature creates a variety of interesting materials and architectures in very ingenious ways. We’re interested in understanding the correlation between the structure and the properties of biological materials to develop synthetic materials and designs — based on nature — that have better performance than existing ones,” said Marc Meyers, a professor of mechanical engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the lead author of the study.

In a study published online in Dec. in the journal Materials Science and Engineering C, researchers examined at the nanoscale level how a strand of human hair behaves when it is deformed, or stretched. The team found that hair behaves differently depending on how fast or slow it is stretched. The faster hair is stretched, the stronger it is. “Think of a highly viscous substance like honey,” Meyers explained. “If you deform it fast it becomes stiff, but if you deform it slowly it readily pours.”

Hair consists of two main parts — the cortex, which is made up of parallel fibrils, and the matrix, which has an amorphous (random) structure. The matrix is sensitive to the speed at which hair is deformed, while the cortex is not. The combination of these two components, Yu explained, is what gives hair the ability to withstand high stress and strain.

And as hair is stretched, its structure changes in a particular way. At the nanoscale, the cortex fibrils in hair are each made up of thousands of coiled spiral-shaped chains of molecules called alpha helix chains. As hair is deformed, the alpha helix chains uncoil and become pleated sheet structures known as beta sheets. This structural change allows hair to handle a large amount deformation without breaking.

This structural transformation is partially reversible. When hair is stretched under a small amount of strain, it can recover its original shape. Stretch it further, the structural transformation becomes irreversible. “This is the first time evidence for this transformation has been discovered,” Yu said.

“Hair is such a common material with many fascinating properties,” said Bin Wang, a UC San Diego PhD alumna from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and co-author on the paper. Wang is now at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology in China continuing research on hair.

The team also conducted stretching tests on hair at different humidity levels and temperatures. At higher humidity levels, hair can withstand up to 70 to 80 percent deformation before breaking (dry hair can undergo up to 50 percent deformation). Water essentially “softens” hair — it enters the matrix and breaks the sulfur bonds connecting the filaments inside a strand of hair. Researchers also found that hair starts to undergo permanent damage at 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). Beyond this temperature, hair breaks faster at lower stress and strain.

“Since I was a child I always wondered why hair is so strong. Now I know why,” said Wen Yang, a former postdoctoral researcher in Meyers’ research group and co-author on the paper.

The team is currently conducting further studies on the effects of water on the properties of human hair. Moving forward, the team is investigating the detailed mechanism of how washing hair causes it to return to its original shape.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Structure and mechanical behavior of human hair by Yang Yua, Wen Yang, Bin Wang, Marc André Meyers. Materials Science and Engineering: C Volume 73, 1 April 2017, Pages 152–163    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.msec.2016.12.008

This paper is behind a paywall.

The shrimp will save us

Who knew that ceramics are a preferred material for body armour? Clearly, not me. According to the June 13, 2012 news item on Nanowerk, there’s a shrimp whose shell may offer inspiration for better quality ceramics used not only in military body armour but also in joint replacements. Here’s an image of one type of mantis shrimp,

Flower Mantis Shrimp (Photo Credit Silke Baron)

Pretty, isn’t it? Here’ s more from the June 13, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

A scientist from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) may be onto an ocean of discovery because of his research into a little sea creature called the mantis shrimp.

The research is likely to lead to making ceramics – today’s preferred material for medical implants and military body armour – many times stronger. These findings were published in last Friday’s Science (“The Stomatopod Dactyl Club: A Formidable Damage-Tolerant Biological Hammer” [behind a paywall]), and focused on the mantis shrimp’s ability to shatter aquarium glass and crab shells alike.

The common creature native to the Indo Pacific, has club-like ‘arms’ which can strike prey at speeds matching that of a 5.56mm rifle bullet. Each impact generates a force exceeding 50 kilograms, which is hundreds of times the mantis shrimp’s weight.

The June 13, 2012 news release from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) notes,

Assistant Professor Ali Miserez, from NTU’s School of Materials Science Engineering (MSE) and School of Biological Sciences (SBS), collaborated with Dr James Weaver from Harvard University as well as scientists from the University of California-Riverside, Purdue University, and Brookhaven National Laboratory in the United States.

They have observed down to the nanoscale the highly unique composite structure of the mantis shrimp’s club and discovered that it is weaved together in a unique fashion to create a structure tougher than many engineered ceramics. This is the first time that the mantis shrimp’s club is studied in such detail.

“The highly damage resistant property of the mantis shrimp could be most useful in medical products such as hip and joint implants, as they sustain impacts hundreds of times daily during walking and daily activities,” said Asst Prof Miserez, a recipient of the National Research Foundation Fellowship, which provides a research grant of up to S$3 million over five years.

“Damaged hip implants are a real problem, and cost billions of dollars to the healthcare systems worldwide. They also cause painful surgeries to patients when they need to be replaced. Using a nature-inspired blueprint to design biocompatible implants is actually a ‘shrimple‘ solution.”

Thank you for that wordplay. ‘Shrimple’, indeed! More seriously, I have previously commented on hip replacements and the search for ways to improve them, most recently in my April 20, 2012 posting.

The June 13, 2012 news release from Nanyang Technological University goes on to discuss Dr. Miserez’s lab and other applications for the shrimp-inspired ceramic materials,

Designing a damage-resistant implant which is made out of a bio-compatible bone material would solve the above problems [bone loss, toxicity, and immune reactions], as the material exists naturally in the human body. Asst Prof Miserez, whose laboratory is situated at MSE’s Centre for Biomimetic Sensor Science, said they will continue their research to better understand the design and materials and will attempt to replicate it in the laboratory next year.

His team, which includes PhD student Shahrouz Amini, will be focusing on developing a new bio-compatible material which could be used for medical implants such as hip implants. However, the potential applications for these nature-inspired designs are widespread because the final product is expected to be lighter weight and more impact resistant than existing products. These could include new types of armour plating, lighter vehicles and tougher engine and aircraft components like pistons and gears, all of which suffer from impact, wear and abrasion damage over time. [emphasis mine]

Possible medical and military advances march hand in hand, again!

The latest in bulletproof vests: carbon nanotubes

Amendment II; An American Combat Apparel Company as it bills itself on Facebook, is offering new bulletproof body armour utilizing RynoHide, a carbon nanotube composite. From the April 26, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

RynoHide™, the world’s first Carbon Nanotube compound for ballistic and shrapnel resistant products is now available to the personal protection equipment industry and the general public. On the cutting edge of scientific innovation, RynoHide is lighter than any other compound on the market, yet provide greater user protection from back-face deformation of projectiles. Designed to meet the needs of all military and law enforcement operations, RynoHide is also affordable for public consumers.

Here’s a 2 min. video where RynoHide’s bulletstopping capabilities are demonstrated,

Since carbon nanotubes have been compared to asbestos and there is research which indicates that they behave like asbestos fibres when inhaled (my Sept. 22, 2011 posting), I’d be a little nervous about the fibres which are spewed when the bullet hits the composite. It’s possible that these carbon nanotubes are encapsulated and are not released into the environment when a bullet or projectile hits the material but I have looked around on the Amendment II company website and was not able to find any information about safety and carbon nanotubes.

Perhaps in the excitement they forgot to include any details about the carbon nanotubes, how they are integrated into the composite, and the safety testing. The April 26, 2012 news item highlights one of the product’s big advantages,

Traditional armor is designed to stop projectiles moving thousands of feet per second from penetration and back-face deformation. Back-face deformation is the bulge that occurs in the back of the armor from a projectile hitting the front without passing completely though. Traditional armor is designed to minimize these threats by using 20 to 30 layers of a high tensile strength synthetic aramid, such as Kevlar.

The acceptable back-face deformation limit for body armor, as set by the National Institute of Justice, is 44mm, or nearly two inches. RynoHide helps body armor achieve a back-face deformation level in the low 30’s, without increasing the weight of the armor.

Less back-face deformation means less hurt on the body.

“That’s a huge advantage for the user of the armor if they get hit,” says R.G. Craig, President of Amendment II. “It could be the difference between a stay in the hospital or simply going home at the end of the day to your family.” Such protection is achieved without compromise in comfort and convenience.

The product was developed at the University of Utah’s Nano Institute in partnership with Amendment II.

Canada Foundation for Innovation “World’s Best”?; Ping hoodie, clothing that networks socially; life protection clothing; getting spiders to weave building materials?; open access archive for nano papers

The headline for the news release on Marketwire (via the Canadian Science Policy site) is: Canada Foundation for Innovation(CFI) Practices is Called ‘World’s Best’. As it’s been a bit slow for news here I began wondering ‘which practices in which countries are being compared’? After reviewing the reports quickly, I can’t answer the question. There are no bibliographies in any of the three reports related to this KPMG study while the footnotes make reference only to other KPMG and Canadian studies. It was a bit of surprise, I was expecting to see reports from other countries and/or from international organizations and some insight into their analysis as comparing agencies in different countries can be complicated.

I’m not sure how they arrived at their conclusion although they provide some interesting data. From the Overall Evaluation report (p. 28 PDF, p. 24 print),

Exhibit [Table] 4.16 shows that, on average, there have been about 6.4 collaborations with end-users per PL/PU in the past year, three-quarters of which used the CFI projects as key resources, and about 10.2 collaborations per Department Head, about 70% of which using CFI projects in a significant way. For PLs/PUs, there are only small differences in use of CFI projects as a key resource by type of end-user, but Department Heads show more variation in the use of CFI project by type of user; it is unknown if this is significant.

Note that 64% of PL/PUs’ and 80% of Department Heads’ end-user collaborations, respectively, are with Canadian organizations; there is a significant international component (with OMS data suggesting that the CFI projects are a significant attractor for international organizations to collaborate [emphasis mine]).

It certainly seems laudable although I question whether you can conclude that the CFI is a significant international organization attractor by inference alone. Shouldn’t this be backed up with another instrument, such as a questionnaire for a survey/poll of the international organizations, asking why they are collaborating with Canadian scientists? I was not able to find any mention of such a survey or poll taking place.

From everything I hear, Canadians are excellent at academic science research and attracting researchers from around the world and because of our penchant for collaboration we (as they say) “punch above our weight.” I just wish this report did a better job of providing evidence for its assertions about the CFI’s ‘best practices’.

Ping hoodie

Thanks to Adrian Covert’s article on Fast Company, I found information about a prototype for a piece of wearable computing, the Ping hoodie. From Covert’s article,

The Ping clothing concept makes use of embedded electronics and haptics controlled by the Arduino Lilypad system, which transmits to your device (most likely a smartphone) using the Lylipad Xbee. This tech serves as the core interface between you and the information you need. If someone special is sending you a call or text, you can set the hoodie to vibrate in a specific manner, letting you know it’s them. Actions as simple as lifting or dropping the hood can be used to send status updates and messages on Facebook, with the potential to target certain groups of friends.

There’s more at Fast Company or you can check out electricfoxy where the designer, Jennifer Darmour has her site which is where I found this image,

Ping hoodie (wearable computing) designed by Jennifer Darmour at electricfoxy

Do go to Darmour’s site (although Fast Company offers a pretty good selection) if you want to see all the images including close ups of the fabric (don’t forget to scroll horizontally as well as vertically).

Clothing that protects your life

P2i, a company I’ve mentioned here before, has announced a ‘new’ revolutionary form of protective clothing. Actually, it sounds like an improvement rather than a revolutionary concept but maybe I’m getting jaded. From the news item on Nanowerk,

A revolutionary new generation of high-performance body armour, launched today, is lighter, more comfortable and more protective than any previous design, thanks to P2i’s liquid-repellent nano-coating technology.

The new G Tech Vest is a joint development between two world-class UK companies with very strong credentials for the life protection market: P2i, whose technology was originally developed to make soldiers’ protective clothing more effective against chemical attack; and Global Armour, which has been at the leading edge of product innovation in the armour industry for over 30 years.

The G Tech Vest employs brand-new lightweight materials, both in the physical armour itself (a closely-guarded trade secret) and the fabric that forms the armour into a garment. P2i’s technology reduces weight by avoiding the need for bulky durable water repellents and increases comfort by preserving the natural airflow and drape of the garment material.

I recently (April 15, 2010) made a comment about how modern soldiers are beginning to resemble medieval knights and this talk of armour certainly reinforces the impression.

Spiders weaving building materials?

Michael Berger at Nanowerk has written an in-depth article about spider silk and its possible application, amongst others, as a building material. He’s interviewed one of the authors (Markus J. Buehler) of a recent paper that lays out “… a framework for predicting the nanostructure of spider silk using atomistic principles.” More from the Spotlight article on Nanowerk,

In a paper published as the cover article in Applied Physics Letters on April 12, 2010 (“Atomistic model of the spider silk nanostructure”), [Sinan] Keten and Buehler demonstrate an innovative application of replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations on a key spider silk repeating sequence, resulting in the first atomistic level structure of spider silk.

More specifically, the MIT researchers found the formation of beta-sheet structures in poly-Ala rich parts of the structure, the presence of semi-extended GGX domains that form H-bonded 31 helix type structures and a complete lack of alpha-helical conformations in the molecular structures formed by the self-assembly of MaSp1 proteins. These results resolve controversies around the structure of the amorphous domains in silk, by illustrating for the first time that these semi-extended, well-oriented and more sparsely H-bonded structures that resemble 31 helices could be the molecular source of the large semi-crystalline fraction of silks and the so-called ‘pre-stretched’ configuration proposed for these domains.

Shy of reading the original research, which I likely wouldn’t understand easily, Berger’s article provides an excellent entry into the subject.

Open access archive for nano papers

My final item for today is about a project to give free access to papers on nanotechnology that they host and/or publish.  Hooray! It’s very frustrating to get stuck behind paywalls so I’m thrilled that there’s an agency offering free access. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The Nano Archive, the online open-access repository for nanoscience and nanotechnology, invites you to submit research papers to be published free online for users across the globe.

Submitted papers can include peer-reviewed articles, journal articles, review articles, conference and workshop papers, theses and dissertations, book chapters and sections, as well as multimedia and audio-visual materials. The Nano Archive also welcomes new, unpublished research results to be shared with the wider community.

The Nano Archive is part of the ICPC NanoNet project, funded by the EU under FP7. It brings together partners from the EU, Russia, India, China and Africa, and provides wider access to published nanoscience research and opportunities for collaboration between scientists in the EU and International Cooperation Partner Countries.

The Nano Archive currently hosts over 6000 papers. You can read more about the sponsoring agency, the ICPC (International Cooperation Partner Countries) NanoNet here. It has funding for four years and was started in 2008.