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Foam material stronger than steel

A team from North Carolina State University have developed a material made of foam that is stronger than steel.

The university and the United States army have collaborated on this special stainless steel composite metal foam (CMF), which they are hoping can be used to protect military vehicles from explosions that happen just two feet away.

Professor Afsaneh Rabiei said: "In short, we found that steel-CMF offers much more protection than all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight remarkably. We can provide as much protection as existing steel armor at a fraction of the weight - or provide much more protection at the same weight. Many military vehicles use armor made of rolled homogeneous steel, which weighs three times as much as our steel-CMF without sacrificing safety, better blocking not only the fragments but also the blast waves that are responsible for trauma such as major brain injuries. That would reduce vehicle weight significantly, improving fuel mileage and vehicle performance."

The team tested two different thicknesses of steel-CMF, with one being nine and a half millimetres and the other 16.75 millimetres.

The report, which was published in the Journal of Composite Structures, added: "When compared to the experimental results, the model matched very closely. The researchers then used the model to predict how aluminum 5083 armor - a type of armor already on the market that has a similar weight and thickness to the 16.75 millimeter steel-CMF - would perform against HEI rounds ...

"The researchers assessed that the steel-CMF held up against the wave of blast pressure and against the copper and steel fragments created by the exploding round, as well as aluminum from the strike plate."

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