Keeping the men and women of our military safe is a serious priority, and should continue to be in the future. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan regularly carry between 60 and 100 lb of gear, including weapons, armor, and batteries. Most of that weight comes from body armor, made with a combination of polymer and ceramic materials.
The armor a soldier wears holds the most critical job, shielding the body from lethal harm. While modern armor does its best to fulfill the job requirements, there are areas where it can be improved. Third-year materials science and engineering student at Whiting School, Beatriz Medeiros, believes that current armor is too bulky. Working alongside professor Timothy Weihs, Medeiros is developing innovative vehicle armor materials.
A recent recipient of the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program internship, which is co-sponsored by the Army Research Office and the Center for Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments (CMEDE), Medeiros is focused on producing an alloy that could potentially slow down or block projectiles. Once the alloy completes thermomechanical processing, it will be able to form nano-precipitates that can, according to Medeiros, “slow down or block dislocations, the atomic-scale defects in materials that are produced and then propagate upon impact.”
Graduate student Suhas Eswarappa Prameela serves as Medeiros’ mentor in the quest to strengthen the alloys. Together, they are exploring multiple thermomechanical processing methods. The methods are described by the students as, “rolling, which presses the material between two rollers, and equal channel angular extrusion, which pulls it through an L-shaped chamber. Both methods can change the material’s average crystal grain size and precipitate size, which in turn affects its strength.”
Medeiros says, “A soldier’s job is hard enough. By improving their armor, we’re hoping to make their jobs a little bit easier.”
Filed Under: Product design