Mind & Matter


Tougher than Kevlar

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Body armor. Photo: Discovery News


Scientific breakthroughs often come from unlikely sources. A research study of brain plaque found in Alzeimer's patients, for example, inspired the discovery of the hardest synthesized material ever, thus far.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University, who studied the beta-amyloid proteins formed by dozens of amino acids in Alzeimer's-afflicted patients, have been able to simulate the proteins' microstructure in layers of super-strong nanospheres. The new material is transparent, and has the hardest organic nanostructure of any known substance—even greater than Kevlar.

Project scientist Ehud Gazit alluded to the future potential of printing transparent body armor of unprecedented strength, adding that the current focus is on "more straightforward uses: to improve the mechanical properties of composite structures, such as ceramics and bulletproof glass."




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.