Researchers 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?