Scientists from Tiangong University in China have developed a stab-resistant fabric that could one day be used to manufacture anti-stabbing clothing, helmets and insoles, and cut-resistant packaging.

To strengthen conventional aramid — an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene often used in soft body armor — scientists added carbon nanotubes and polyacrylate to create lightweight, soft fabrics that provide better protection.

Source: ACS Applied Nano Materials (2023). DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.3c00738Source: ACS Applied Nano Materials (2023). DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.3c00738

In the lab, researchers first attempted to strengthen the aramid fabric with different combinations of a polyacrylate emulsion (PAE), sheer thickening fluid (STF) and polyurethane (PU) coatings. Following a series of simulated stabbing tests, the aramid fabric coated with PAE alone reportedly outperformed uncoated material and the material coated with STF and PU.

Further, the team added carbon nanotubes to the aramid/PAE combination, thereby improving impact resistance. Since the nanotubes created bridges between the fibers, it increased friction — and greater friction equals greater protection. Additionally, the nanotubes also created a protective network that dispersed stress from the point of impact, which helped prevent the disintegration of the fiber.

The final product is reportedly a lightweight, flexible, puncture-resistant composite fabric appropriate for both military and civilian applications, concluded the researchers.

The material is detailed in the article, “Polyacrylate and Carboxylic Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotube-Strengthened Aramid Fabrics as Flexible Puncture-Resistant Composites for Anti-Stabbing Applications,” which appears in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials.

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