The Brown School of Engineering at Rice University 3D printed objects based on tubulanes. The resulting block of polymer structures filled with air pockets offers ballistic stopping capabilities that are 10 times better than a solid block of the same plastic.
First predicted in 1993 and still mostly theoretical, tubulanes are structures of crosslinked carbon nanotubes.
Using computer simulations, the research team at Rice was able to print tubulane blocks as macroscale polymers.
When shot the porous lattice blocks stopped the bullet in the second layer of the structure and sustained no further damage thanks to their lamellar deformation mechanism. In comparison, the solid blocks of identical material cracked throughout.
Another advantage of this new material is its compressibility. When crushed, the tubulane blocks collapse in on themselves without cracking under the pressure. This characteristic lends itself to many applications, including construction, automotive, aerospace.
The source of this material’s strength is its symmetrical topology which is completely scalable. Simply by using complex geometries it is possible to print plastic nearly as hard as diamond.