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USAFA cadet develops potential life-saving material

From left, U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet First Class Hayley Weir and AFCEC research chemist Katherine Simpson talk about Weir's capstone project; the development of a new ballistic resistant, flexible, lightweight nanotech-enabled fabric. The material, which is patent pending, could be applied as a protective lining on a variety of objects ranging from body armor to tents and vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mekka Parish)

From left, U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet First Class Hayley Weir and AFCEC research chemist Katherine Simpson talk about Weir's capstone project; the development of a new ballistic resistant, flexible, lightweight nanotech-enabled fabric. The material, which is patent pending, could be applied as a protective lining on a variety of objects ranging from body armor to tents and vehicles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mekka Parish)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet First Class Hayley Weir and Dr. Ryan Burke, assistant professor with the USAF Academy's Department of Military & Strategic Studies, visited the Air Force Civil Engineer Center recently to present the results of Weir's capstone project that could greatly benefit the Air Force.

Weir, with the help of Burke, has been working on creating a ballistic resistant, flexible, lightweight, nanotech enabled fabric for about a year and a half at the Academy. The material has the potential to be applied as a protective lining on a variety of objects ranging from body armor to tents and vehicles.

"I don't think it has actually set in how big this can get," said Weir. "I think this is going to take off and it's going to be really awesome."

The potential of this novel technology has led to AFCEC researchers taking over and funding full development of the material.

While at Tyndall, Weir showed AFCEC researchers how she creates the materials so they can work to optimize it in the lab. Dr. Jeff Owens, senior research chemist with AFCEC's requirements, research & development division, said initial test results at the ballistics range were incredible.

"We're very pleased," said Owens. "We now understand more about what the important variables are, so now we're going to go back and pick all the variables apart, optimize each one and see if we can get up to a higher level of protection."

Initial test results show the material was able to stop a 9mm round and a 44-magnum round. Because it was able to take the force of a 44-magnum round, it can be certified as a type-3 body armor, which is typically worn by Air Force security forces personnel.

Owens and his team hope the material can be fully optimized in the years to come to withstand rifle rounds and ballistics that typically require heavy, rigid armor.

Weir said she appreciates Owens and the rest of the AFCEC research team who are providing a platform for her research.

"Huge thank you to them for flying us out here," said Weir. "Without them we would still be at the Air Force Academy unable to continue this research."