An investigation into the viability of ceramic foam and ultra high molecular weight polyethylene composite for ballistic arrest

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Modern developments in small arms ammunitions and capabilities have led to an increased focus on personal body armor. Traditionally, ceramic faced armor with aramid backings has been a top choice for protection from small arms, due to its ability to stop a variety of rifle rounds. Recently however, ultra-high molecular weight laminate armors constructed from materials such as dyneema® have begun to be adopted due to their extreme weight savings. However, these armors are extremely expensive and are not capable of stopping higher level threats such as armor piercing ammunition. In an effort to explore an alternative method for body armor creation, a zirconia ceramic filter was combined with ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) powder. This idea looked to experiment with the viability of combining the properties of a hard ceramic and high-strength polymer into a single, interconnected composite. Four sample iterations were created using various times at temperature, pore densities, sizes, and pressures. Ballistic testing was conducted to assess whether this composite possessed any realistic ability to arrest projectiles. Only 2 of the 7 projectiles were stopped, but upon further assessment, some of the interactions that lead to the capture of projections were observed. Hardness testing and SEM imaging were conducted in order to better understand the failures of the composite.
Thesis completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Alfred University Honors Program.
Honors thesis, Body armor, Ceramics, Polyethylene