HomeNewsArticle Display

Air Force scientists study artificial silk for body armor, parachutes

Artificial silk fibers can be woven into sizeable, flexible fabrics using existing textile manufacturing methods.

Artificial silk fibers can be woven into sizeable, flexible fabrics using existing textile manufacturing methods. (Courtesy Photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- Who doesn’t like to feel warm in the winter and cool in the summer?

Inspired by the qualities of fibers found in nature, scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory and Purdue University are experimenting to develop a functional fiber that can be woven into sizeable, flexible fabrics using existing textile manufacturing methods.

Researchers are studying the cooling and temperature regulation properties of natural silk in order to apply it to synthetic fibers, such as artificial spider silk, which is both stronger than the polymer known commercially as Kevlar and more flexible than nylon.

Silk exhibits passive radiative cooling, meaning that it radiates more heat than it absorbs when in direct sunlight. On hot summer days, silk drops 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit when compared to reflective materials.

The cooling fabric is of tremendous potential benefit to the warfighter wearing body armor.

Bulletproof vests and parachutes are two articles in line to be constructed with artificial spider silk. Current vests are burdensome due to the heavy weight and non-breathing material they are fabricated with. Parachutes constructed of the new material will be stronger and able to carry larger payloads.

Estimates indicate that while artificial spider silk may initially cost twice as much as Kevlar, the product’s minimal weight, incredible strength and elasticity and potential adaptability for other needs are characteristics enhancing its salability.

“Making the warfighter more comfortable by enhancing body armor is just one of the many improvements my team hopes to make by studying natural silk,” said Dr. Augustine Urbas, researcher in the Functional Materials Division of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “Understanding natural silk will enable us to engineer multifunctional fibers with exponential possibilities. The ultra-strong fibers outperform the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials, as well as steel. These materials could be the future in comfort and strength in body armor and parachute material for the warfighter.”

Tents for forward operating bases could also be composed of the natural material. This would enable the warfighter to work in a cooler environment.

Fibroin, a silk protein secreted by the silkworm, can be processed into a lightweight material for fabricating artificially engineered synthetic and optical materials. The structured optical materials can reflect, absorb, concentrate or split light enabling a material to perform differently in a specific situation.

According to the AFRL researchers, understanding light transport and heat transfer will lead to various innovations and is a great opportunity.

Engage

Twitter
“Together we have been able to reinforce our strong partnership with the #AirForce by going out and visiting these… https://t.co/SfZNCwryKb
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Where do I sign up, TSgt Munoz Case? I’m ready to change the world with you! #bettertogether https://t.co/6BLHH5GZKB
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: “We, the @USAirForce & @SpaceForceDoD, have a terrific story to tell...meeting #Airmen & #Guardians to see where they li…
Twitter
“This award reflects the wing’s culture of critical self-assessment and significant investment in full-spectrum rea… https://t.co/csZpCTa8tH
Twitter
Service members assigned to Andersen Air Force Base and @USMC Base @MCBcampblaz have partnered with the @StateDepthttps://t.co/FSMB2xGuXU
Twitter
Beginning April 19th, the @DeptofDefense will make COVID-19 Vaccine appointments available to all who are authorize… https://t.co/7bofo3TmnQ
Twitter
The @DeptofDefense’s desired outcome for the Arctic is a secure and stable region. @HQAirUniversity is seeking jour… https://t.co/fyflQtyHtj
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Collecting, processing & sharing data faster than a competitor provides a decisive advantage. The Advanced Battle Manage…
Twitter
Purple Up! Today, everyone is encouraged to wear purple to show support for military children who overcome so many… https://t.co/ibXSWprtai
Twitter
.@Team_Tinker, @HillAFBUtah and @366FW #Airmen participated in the Exercise Agile Thunder 21-02, designed to sharpe… https://t.co/kvRhWgb1Ig
Twitter
Happy Birthday Air Force Reserve! The @usafreserve's mission is to provide combat-ready forces to fly, fight and… https://t.co/S0gU4oBfaO
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: In honor of #NationalWeldingMonth we salute our experts across the command who keep our platforms and systems #mission ready!…
Twitter
“This change will improve @Andrews_JBA’s ability to build multi-capable Airmen now and into the future as we work t… https://t.co/YfXlpIiY20
Twitter
“Everything AFCENT does starts and ends with the coalition.” - Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, commander of 9th Air Force… https://t.co/zT7pORj54Z
Twitter
“Mobility is increasingly playing an integral role in executing Agile Combat Employment, ensuring the Joint Force c… https://t.co/uZ4Jgy9soG
Twitter
We help our Airmen reach their full potential by putting #SafetyFirst. Congratulations and great job, all! #AimHigh https://t.co/5uLCs8dbBC
Twitter
Our military families experience a lot of changes, especially the children, and in April we celebrate the Month of… https://t.co/JrlVxzEbRB
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,342,300
Follow Us