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Porous material uses robust honeycomb-type design

Sponsored by the Army Research OfficeUniversity of California, San Diego Structural Engineering Professor Yu Qiao and his Ph.D student Cang Zhao have developed an impressive array of nanofoams that disperse the force of an impact better than previous materials.

The researchers began by creating foams with honeycomb like pores that ranged from 10 microns (micron-foams) to 10 nanometers (nano-foams).  The pours encompassed between 50 and 80 percent of the foam's total volume.  The pores were created using either combustion or acid etching, followed by dry curing.

The team discovered that the foam with the smallest pores -- the 10 nm pore-size nanofoam -- absorbed impacts the best.  Larger foams suffered so-called "damage localization" when exposed to trauma.  The energy absorbed was poorly distributed, leading to failures.  As a result, these foams would be poor candidates for body armor or building materials.

Foam pores
Smaller pore size films performed better. [Image Source: UCSD]

The work is far from over.  The current foams, which will be presented at the Research Expo April 18 on the UC San Diego campus are made of silica.  While the results are promising, the team believes polymeric or metallic nanoporous foams of similar pore composition may perform even better.

foam gun
The team used a special gun to test the impact resistance. [Image Source: UCSD]

The superfoams have a broad variety of potential applications.  They could be used in body armor for athletes to prevent traumatic injuries, be used by soldiers to prevent war wounds, and even be used to boost tall buildings' ability to withstand terrorist blasts or earthquakes.

Professor Qiao brags, "We are getting some impressive results.  People have been looking at preventing damage from impacts for more than a hundred years.  I hope this concept can provide a new solution."

Source: UCSD [press release]





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