50 years ago, bulletproof armor was getting light enough to wear | Science News

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50 Years Ago

50 years ago, bulletproof armor was getting light enough to wear

Excerpt from the June 21, 1969 issue of Science News

7:00am, June 20, 2019
bulletproof vest

Bulletproof armor has become much lighter and offers better protection than it did 50 years ago.

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Science News cover from June 21, 1969
Lighter bulletproof vest

A new, lighter bulletproof armor ... composed of boron carbide fibers ... [is] capable of stopping a .30-caliber bullet.... The armor weighs about six pounds per square foot, compared to previous boron carbide armor of seven pounds per square foot.... Until now boron carbide armor has been used mainly to protect vital helicopter parts, but the lighter weight means it could be worn by ground troops. — Science News, June 21, 1969


Many boron carbide armor components have been replaced by Kevlar, which was developed around the same time (SN Online: 4/8/15). Made of woven synthetic polymer chains, Kevlar fast became essential wear for soldiers and law enforcement officers. More than eight times the tensile strength of steel, the textile distributes the energy of a bullet impact over a large area. Some modern body armor systems today weigh a tenth of their boron carbide counterparts. Scientists are testing engineered spider silk, another strong and flexible textile, for body armor (SN: 5/11/19, p. 24).


R.B. Kabir and N. Ferdous. Kevlar — the super tough fiber. International Journal of Textile Science. Vol. 1, 2012, p. 78. doi:10.5923/j.textile.20120106.04.

I.G. Crouch. Body armour — new materials, new systems. Defence Technology. Published online February 27. doi: 10.1016/j.dt.2019.02.002.

Further Reading

J. Rehm. Bacteria can be coaxed into making the toughest kind of spider silk. Science News. Vol 195, No. 9, May 11, 2019, p. 24.

M. Rosen. Spiders spin stronger threads with nanotubes. Science News. Vol. 187 #12, June 13, 2015, p. 12.

T. Siegfried. Top 10 science anniversaries of 2015. Science News Online, April 8, 2015.

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