13 January 2006
13 January 2006
Under a partnership with Armor Holdings, researchers from the Florida State University are developing and testing body armour for soldiers' arms and legs that could reduce fatalities and loss of limbs.
""Most of the folks who die in military conflicts don't die from getting shot,"" said James Thagard, a visiting assistant professor with the engineering school's Florida Advanced Center for Composite Technologies (FAC2T). ""Seventy-five to 80 percent die from getting hit by shrapnel and excessive bleeding.""
Troops already receive protective helmets, bulletproof vests and shoulder armour to help them survive combat, but their arms and legs are exposed. The armour would be among the first products manufactured by the defence industry to protect soldiers' extremities.
""The reality is you can't protect everything,"" Thagard said. ""There are always areas of a soldier's body that will be exposed, but this is a good place to start. Right now there are no requirements for extremity protection.""
FSU received $100,000 from Armor Holdings in November to cover two months of research. More grants from the company are expected to continue the work. As part of the partnership, FSU researchers are also experimenting with polymers toughened with carbon nanotubes to improve the strength of fabrics used to make bulletproof armour.
Ballistics tests show the new material exceeds the new requirements for bulletproof vests while providing the necessary aesthetic and mechanical properties so the armour can be worn comfortably. Thagard has begun making prototype pieces of the armour, which will be given to Armor Holdings to manufacture on a broad scale for field-testing. Armor Holdings already manufactures vests and other plates that soldiers wear to protect their torso.
""There is more that can be done to protect beyond the core torso area,"" said Bob Mecredy, president of the Armor Holdings Aerospace and Defense Group. ""We are thrilled to be partnering with Florida State and believe our combined efforts will produce results that have a direct, even lifesaving, benefit for soldiers in the field.""
Thagard's new armour will likely be field tested at military training facilities in the coming weeks and months to see if it can be comfortably worn and isn't too bulky.
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