Graphene bulletproof vests
While bullet-proof body armor does tend to be thick and heavy, that may no longer be the case if research being conducted at The City University of New York bears fruit. Led by Prof. Elisa Riedo, scientists there have determined that two layers of stacked graphene can harden to a diamond-like consistency upon impact. For those who don't know, graphene is made up of carbon atoms linked together in a honeycomb pattern, and it takes the form of one-atom-thick sheets. Among various other claims to fame, it is the world's strongest material.
Known as diamene, the new material is made up of just two sheets of graphene, upon a silicon carbide substrate. It is described as being as light and flexible as foil – in its regular state, that is. When sudden mechanical pressure is applied at room temperature, though, it temporarily becomes harder than bulk diamond.
The material was conceived of by associate professor Angelo Bongiorno, who developed computer models which indicated that it should work, as long as the two sheets were aligned correctly. Riedo and colleagues then conducted tests on samples of actual diamene, which backed up Bongiorno's findings.
Interestingly, the hardening effect only happens when two sheets of graphene are used – no more or no less. That said, scientists at Rice University have had success in absorbing the impact of "microbullets" using graphene that's stacked 300 layers thick.