Feathers and silk keys to light protection

Feathers show potential inspiration for making light weight body armour, and another soft material, silk, is already in service in police body armour in Thailand.



Both facts may be gleaned from the Biomimetics academic mailing list on Jiscmail, including the observations that high flying pheasants are difficult to shoot with standard shot guns because the shot gets diverted by the feathers, and cats pursuing birds often end up with a mouthful of feathers and no bird. Researchers at Reading have found that feathers are, “Really quite tough”, showing mean fracture toughnesses as high as 15 kJ/m^2. When the shot enters the feathers, it cannot propagate a fracture and gets decelerated before it reaches the skin.

Yielding yet strong is also the thinking behind the use of silkworm silk in bulletproof vests for Thai police officers. Researchers are the Textile Engineering department at Rajamangala Institute of Technology have designed a weave that exploits silk’s ability to stretch without losing its shape. The vests meet the Type 1 requirement for bulletproof vests set by the US National Institute for Justice and cost about one third as much as conventional imports.

More information from www.biomimetics.org.uk
The Biomimetics Network for Industrial Sustainability

Author
Tom Shelley

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