Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have come up with a ceramic armor that appears to surpass commercially available packages in stopping armor-piercing projectiles.
Steve Nunn, a senior researcher in the Metals and Ceramics Division, said it's not clear why tiles of boron carbide ceramic made at ORNL outperformed similar materials on the market.
"That's hard to say because the commercial stuff that's out there is processed by proprietary methods,'' Nunn said. "We really don't know what they add or exactly how it's processed.''
In ballistics tests at the government's Oak Ridge firing range, a ceramic tile fabricated at ORNL was able to stop a projectile at 24 percent higher velocity than one type of commercially available armor. It was 11 percent better than ceramic armor from another supplier.
The hardness of the ceramic helps to fracture the bullet, breaking it up into smaller fragments.
When a tile of boron carbide ceramic was sandwiched with sheets of a polymer matrix composite, it was able to stop a 30-caliber armor-piercing bullet traveling at speeds up to 2,800 feet per second.
The polymer absorbs energy and seems to enhance the capabilities of the ceramic tile, Nunn said, although researchers don't fully understand why.