Bullet-resistant wool lightens the load

Wool Bullet-proof vestResearchers at RMIT University are developing bullet-resistant wool as a lighter and cheaper alternative to bullet-proof vests, claiming it will work in both wet and dry conditions.


Dr Rajiv Padhye and Dr Lyndon Arnold, from RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles, have found a vest made of wool-Kevlar blend works better in the wet and needs fewer layers than existing ballistic vests.


Padhye says Kevlar is a strong but expensive fabric that loses about 20% of its effectiveness when wet, requiring costly treatments to make the material waterproof.


“While a typical Kevlar vest is made of about 36 layers, our wool-Kevlar blend only needs 28 to 30 layers to achieve the same bullet-resistant effect,” Padhye says.


“And because wool fibres expand naturally in water by up to 16%, the wool-Kevlar blend actually becomes more effective in wet conditions.”


“With Kevlar averaging about $70 per kilogram, compared to about $12 for wool, reducing the amount required to make a vest is a real incentive for manufacturers.”


The researchers are currently working with ballistics vest manufacturers to commercialise the product.


The world of bulletproof vests may seem a bit more Hollywood than Aussie start-up, but this innovation highlights the improvements that can be made to traditional protective equipment.


What other safety gear can be improved upon to offer workers such as chefs and builders a safer, and more convenient, environment?


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