— When it comes to protecting America's combat troops
in battle, research under way at the Florida A&M
University-Florida State University College of Engineering
could be a lifesaver.
a partnership with Armor Holdings, Inc. of Jacksonville,
FSU researchers are developing and testing first-of-its-kind
body armor for soldiers' arms and legs that could
reduce fatalities and loss of limbs when they are
of the folks who die in military conflicts don't die
from getting shot," said James Thagard, a visiting
assistant professor with the engineering school's
Florida Advanced Center for Composite Technologies
(FAC2T). "Seventy-five to 80 percent die from
getting hit by shrapnel and excessive bleeding."
already receive protective helmets, bulletproof vests
and shoulder armor to help them survive combat, but
their arms and legs are exposed. The armor would be
among the first products manufactured by the defense
industry to protect soldiers' extremities.
reality is you can't protect everything," Thagard
said. "There are always areas of a soldier's
body that will be exposed, but this is a good place
to start. Right now there are no requirements for
received $100,000 from Armor Holdings in November
to cover two months of research. More grants from
the company are expected in 2005 to continue the work.
As part of the partnership, FSU researchers are also
experimenting with polymers toughened with carbon
nanotubes to improve the strength of fabrics used
to make bulletproof armor.
developing the new body armor, Thagard bound multiple
layers of fabric and plastic materials together to
create the experimental armor. Ballistics tests show
the combination of materials exceeds the new requirements
for bulletproof vests while providing the necessary
aesthetic and mechanical properties so the armor can
be worn comfortably. Thagard has begun making prototype
pieces of the armor, which will be given to Armor
Holdings to manufacture on a broad scale for field-testing.
Armor Holdings already manufactures vests and other
plates that soldiers wear to protect their torso.
is more that can be done to protect beyond the core
torso area," said Bob Mecredy, president of the
Armor Holdings Aerospace and Defense Group. "We
are thrilled to be partnering with Florida State and
believe our combined efforts will produce results
that have a direct, even lifesaving, benefit for soldiers
in the field."
new armor will likely be field tested at military
training facilities in the coming weeks and months
to see if it can be comfortably worn and isn't too
"It's really promising that we've been able to
come up with this at FSU," Thagard said holding
a panel of the new armor. "We know that this
recipe is good and just hope it can be utilized quickly
to help save more soldiers."
partnership with Armor Holdings represents just the
latest area of high-tech composite materials research
at the Florida Advanced Center for Composite Technologies.
In addition to the new body armor, Thagard and other
researchers have developed lightweight, custom leg
supports for various uses. One brace helps Navy Seabee
Anthony Muller of Jacksonville to walk after he sustained
a severe leg wound in Iraq. Another support keeps
FSU Seminole star receiver Craphonso Thorpe at peak
performance after he suffered a broken leg last year.
are only scratching the surface in realizing the potential
of composites," said Professor Ben Wang, the
center's director. "I am really excited about
this project. Anytime you can develop a technology
that will save lives and make life better for the
men and women serving our nation, you can't help but