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The latest example comes from material scientists at MIT, who have used advanced nanoscale engineering to craft a new armor material they say outperforms Kevlar and steel.
The starting point for the promising new material was a photosensitive resin, which was treated with lasers to form a lattice pattern made up of repeating microscopic struts. This material was then put in a high-temperature vacuum chamber, which converted the polymer into an ultralight carbon with an architecture originally inspired by special foams designed to absorb impacts.
"Historically this geometry appears in energy-mitigating foams," says lead author, Carlos Portela. "While carbon is normally brittle, the arrangement and small sizes of the struts in the nanoarchitected material gives rise to a rubbery, bending-dominated architecture."