Metal foam tough enough to turn an armour-piercing bullet into dust could be used to create the next generation of body and vehicle protection.
A team at North Carolina State University discovered that an inch-thick layer of composite metal foams (CMFs) can stop a bullet.
The indentation on the back of the foam is just 8mm – significantly less than the 44mm allowed by the US National Institute of Justice.
Video of one of the university’s tests shows the bullet hitting a target marked on the material.
But instead of piercing the metal foam, the bullet instead appears to disintegrate on impact.
CMF is a type of material created by incorporating hollow beads of one metal into a substrate cast from another.
Despite a low density, it boasts impressive physical characteristics.
Last year, the team showed that CMFs are highly effective at shielding X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation.
They also handle fire and heat twice as well as the plain metals they are made of.
As a result, the applications for the material don’t just stop at combat situations: it could have uses in everything from space exploration to nuclear waste containers.