Researchers at Rice University are studying 3D printing plastic structures that mimic tubulanes — theoretical nanotube structures predicted to have extraordinary strength. The result has been very strong and very compressible structures that can actually resist bullets.
As an experiment, the researchers fired projectiles at 5.8 km/s at a block of plastic and at a block of simulated tubulanes. The structure of the tubulane block stopped the bullet at the second layer with no significant structural damage beyond the second layer. The reference block had a large hole and cracks throughout its volume.
It isn’t the strength of the material here but the topology that is interesting, because material like this should scale well if something larger or smaller is required. The latticework also makes the material very compressible as you can see in the video below.
The researchers hope to find uses for the material in fields as diverse as aerospace, automotive, sports, packaging, civil engineering, and biomedical applications. Meanwhile, you can only wonder what would happen if you could actually make the structure from carbon nanotubes.