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Zetix Blast Resistant Fabric Has Other Uses

Zetix is a remarkable fabric from Auxetix Ltd; it can resist multiple bomb blasts without tearing. It is a member of a class of fabrics called auxetics that actually become thicker when stretched out.


(Principle of auxetics demonstrated)

The idea that a material could become thicker when stretched out is contrary to our usual experience with objects that stretch. The illustration show above explains how it works. For example, a plain bungee cord will indeed get thinner when stretched. However, if you entwine it with a stiffer cord, and then stretch out the two together, the stiffer white-colored cord becomes taut, while the bungee cord wraps around it. The pair of cords are thicker. Finally, bundle a group of these pairs together; now you've got an auxetic structure.

Now, imagine a fabric that uses this same principle at a much smaller level; when you stretch the fabric, it actually thickens up.


(Comparison of Zetix with conventional blast-proof materials)

When this principle is applied to protective fabrics like those shown below, the results are dramatic. Most blast-resistant materials fail when exposed to the energy of a explosive blast. However, the Zetix material thickens to resist the blast, and then returns to its earlier state.

Besides giving hope to would-be superheroes everywhere for a super-suit (see Skiers Get 'Impact Suits' and Scientific Proof For Superhero Tights for related news), this kind of material has a surprising number of applications:

  • Seat Belts
    In an accident, the passenger is usually thrown forwards, and if the deceleration is particularly dramatic, the forces involved can be enormous. In attempting to restrain this movement, the seat belt gets stretched and, much like an elastic band being pulled, becomes narrower. This is exactly the opposite of the behaviour that you want at such a critical time, for, in getting narrower, it concentrates all the forces into a much smaller area.
  • Construction - Concrete Reinforcement
    Conventional reinforcements that are used in concrete structures suffer from the fact that as they are loaded in tension, they get thinner. This causes a de-bonding effect, where the reinforcing rod pulls away from the surrounding concrete.
  • Health - Dental Floss
    Auxetic dental floss offers several key benefits, including the ability to expand to fit the widely differing gaps between human teeth and the ability to deliver chemotherapeutics, fluorides or flavours directly to the gum line.
  • Manufacturing - Filtration
    When a conventional net-like material is stretched, the holes close up, whereas in an auxetic version the holes open up. This can be exploited to create a range of objects where controlling the hole size may be important. This could be particularly significant in the industrial filtration market.
  • Aerospace - Smart Sensors
    Smart sensors can be used in a variety of composite structures as in-situ monitoring devices. One of the problems with conventional structures is that when they experience loads or shocks that may have weakened or damaged them, there is rarely any satisfactory method of assessing their integrity. The novel sensors being developed at Auxetix provide much higher signal resolution whilst providing a range of other benefits at the same time.

Materials science is becoming more futuristic every day:

Via Zetix Blast-Proof Fabric; lots of good information at the Auxetix website. Also, find more details about auxetics materials.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/7/2007)

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