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Metal foam strong enough to stop bullets

"We could stop the bullet at a total thickness of less than an inch," said researcher Afsaneh Rabiei.

By
Brooks Hays
Researchers at NC State have been testing the strength of composite metal foams in their labs. Photo by NCSU
Researchers at NC State have been testing the strength of composite metal foams in their labs. Photo by NCSU

RALEIGH, N.C., April 6 (UPI) -- Armor piercing bullets are supposed to be indestructible. They never met metal foam.

Materials scientists at North Carolina State University have been working with composite metal foams, or CMFs, for several years.

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Recently, NC State scientists tested the ultra-light, high-strength material's possible use as body and vehicle armor. Results suggest metal foam has tremendous bullet-stopping potential.

This week, researchers released a video showing a layer of CMF halting armor-piercing bullets.

"We could stop the bullet at a total thickness of less than an inch, while the indentation on the back was less than 8 millimeters," Afsaneh Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State, said in a news release. "To put that in context, the NIJ standard allows up to 44 millimeters indentation in the back of an armor."

The NIJ, or National Institute of Justice, sets performance standards for bulletproof vests and other types of combat armor.

Scientists say CMFs have potential beyond body armor. Because it is so light -- in addition to being super strong -- researchers are interested in its potential use in aviation and space travel. Previous tests have proven its ability to effectively shield X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation.

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