Have you been watching too many movies like me, wishing you could have the superhuman power of cushioning the blow of bullets? Or even just becoming Neo from The Matrix and dodging them completely? Well the former is becoming much more of a reality….

Dutch artist Jalila Essaïdi and researchers from America, Germany, the Netherlands and South Korea are investigating the prospect of creating a ‘bullet proof human’. Kevlar vests provided inspiration for Essaïdi’s project, 2.6g/329m/s, which is the weight and speed of material that the vest can resist…catchy.  Kevlar is made of silkworm fibres that can be strengthened by introducing spider genes into the fibres to form a mighty hybrid.  Stephen Fossey from the Natick Army Research Center explained that Kevlar “can elongate up to 4 percent before breaking, while spider silks can stretch by as much as 15 percent before breaking”.

Essaïdi’s project involves layering spider silk between synthetic human skin and then firing a load of bullets at it to see the effects. She found that a bullet travelling at half its normal speed did not penetrate the material; however at full speed (329 m/s), it did reach breaking point.  Although my superpower dreams may be a long way off yet, Essaïdi is continuing to look into using this creation for artificial skin and brain transplants and even artificial corneas… Oh the possibilities.

Bonnie Brown

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