Researchers believe they have developed a new high-performance fiber that is stronger than Kevlar. According to the project team around Horacio Espinosa, the new material was built using carbon nanotubes and "a polymer" to result in a new product that has a higher ability to absorb energy than Kevlar. However, Kevlar has a higher threshold before breaking.
The research group did not provide any numbers, but said that it will be working to make the fiber stronger as the scientists learn how "this material functions on multiple scales." “We’re going to need to understand how molecules function at these nanometer scales to engineer stronger and tougher fibers in the future,” said Tobin Filleter, one of the scientists. “Carbon nanotubes, the nanoscale building blocks of the developed yarns, are still 50 times stronger than the material we created,” said Mohammad Naraghi, another researcher in Espinosa’s group. “If we can better engineer the interactions between bundles, we can make the material stronger.”
It should not be surprising to hear that the Department of Defense is sponsoring the research. The U.S. Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research have given Espinosa $7.5 million to study "disruptive fibers." There is hope that the material could be used in vehicles, airplanes, satellites as well as bulletproof vests.