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« The Nano Papers | Main | Unanswered Questions »

September 22, 2004


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Janessa Ravenwood

The UN may include this in their future scenarios, but nothing will be done about their findings - other than embezzling the fund allocated to study them, of course. But an impotent UN is certainly better than UN with teeth, so that's actually the better scenario.


One of the interesting conflicts has occurred militarily speaking over the last century and perhaps even going back farther depending on your views on specific weaponry and armor. Is the issue of the can and the can opener. Where the can is a piece of armor and a can opener is a weapon. As we implemented even room entry nanotechnology into the development of armor for individual as well as heavy equipment on the battlefield. I believe we see a significant advantage to the armor. Diamond is of course substantially stronger than steel and carbon nano tube is substantially stronger yet again. It has been spoken regularly that nano tube is 100 times as strong as steel this is likely high by a factor of 50 or so but remains to be seen. If anyone has a more recent study to quantify the exact strength of carbon nano tubes in microscale I would be interested in reading the reference.

Even at a fiftyfold increase in strength we see a situation where a one inch thick nanotechnology designed and manufacture part or piece of armor would represent a comparison 50 inch thick piece of steel. I believe the heaviest played armor we currently have deployed on the battlefield is 16 inches front armor played on the M1 tank. I could be off by perhaps a few inches. This was still represents a threefold increase with a substantial decrease in weight over the current tank. And if we were to simply duplicate the current tank piece for piece we would see a comparable 16 x 50 = 800 inches of comparable steel plate that's 67 feet thick steel plate. I would be prepared to argue that even a one megaton bomb would have difficulty eliminating the tank short of a direct hit.

Once again just referring back to anyone inch thick plate we see where the weight gain ratio would allow us to manufacture all military vehicles from this material with relativities adding perhaps a second or third inch in vital areas. This would appear to discount all conventional military weaponry on the battlefield today. As even the largest handheld or vehicle fire weapons will not penetrate armor of this magnitude. One could immediately dispute the possibility of manufacturing diamond munitions but we're still left with the need to accelerate the munitions to speeds necessary to penetrate the given armor. Is here that we perhaps leave behind the ability of a soldier with a handheld weapon to deliver enough energy to a projectile to penetrate a given piece of armor.

Although I am unclear on the actual weight of a one inch thick diamond carbon nano tube plate. I would not be surprised if even a mansize individual could carry armor of this quality. Certainly a breastplate and helmet could be worn of this thickness with less thick platings and arm where. Although at this point individual would likely the invulnerable to handheld fire weapons the impact from a 50 caliber rifle would likely still be fatal as the individual struck would be tossed aside. Would likely also received internal injuries from the impact of being struck and striking the ground 20 yards later. We will probably see many broken necks unless the helmet is somehow attached to the breastplate.

There are perhaps many examples of body armor being worn by military individuals throughout history. The most interesting been the full played armor worn prior to the intention of rifles. But we also might look to a less likely time and review the current Star Wars movies where the storm troopers are wearing a white plastic appearance armor. If this armor were made from diamond we could see where a fundamental shift occurred away from projectile weapons to some sort of energy weapon.

There is yet another precedents for this change when the two ironclad ships fought towards the end of the Civil War in the United States. This small engagement represented the end of the old guard and the beginning of the new metal navies. Is my opinion that we will be seen as again occur very soon with the impact of MM on the military.


John B

According to http://www.fprado.com/armorsite/abrams.htm (chart approximately 1/4th way down), the thickness isn't actually measured - rather, its capability to prevent penetration is measured in "RHA"'s - Rolled Homogenous Armor equivalents. That is - how much rolled, homogonized steel armor would it take to resist equivalent amounts of explosive or kinetic impulse. (Yes, I know they're effectively the same thing - this is jargon for the different effects from shaped-charge versus solid-penetrator weapons striking the armor)

In that measurement, the Chobham armor used in the M1A1 turret is the equivalent of at least 800mm (32") of RHA. It's a lil bigger than what you're postulating, Todd.

Additionally, re: the Stormtrooper analogy - All that diamondoid bodyarmor gives you is that it reduces the impact by spreading it across a wider area. This means that instead of a bullet stabbing through you when you get shot, the bullet's energy gets transferred across the entire surface of the plate, which then slams into you. Energy's conserved, but it's not so much a threat for armored versus unarmored people.

The other thing besides surface area that the plate gives you is mass!

That is, the kinetic energy of a projectile is equal to 1/2 the mass times the squared velocity. Increase the mass it hits, reduce the velocity.

Thus, while a diamondoid plate tough enough to absorb sniper bullets without penetration may help, it may be too light to be highly affective as armor. This is one reason why Chobham armor is allegedly as effective as it is - it uses depleted uranium as a high-density 'kinetic energy sink', if you will.


Michael Vassar

Reasonably advanced MNT armor can be much better than diamondoid. Active machine phase materials should be able to absorb most energy, converting it to heat or to stored energy. Momentum transfers can also be mitigated by expelling mass out of the side opposite to the projectile if necessary (prehaps in the form of microbots which the fly to rejoin the armor).

Mr. Farlops

"...an impotent UN is certainly better than [a] UN with teeth...."

I agree that the UN will lack any power to enforce any decisions concerning nanotechnology in the decades to come. One only has to think of the UN's failure to restrain nuclear proliferation to see that. If any one of the major powers (The UK, France, the US, Russia, China, India, Israel, Germany, Japan, Brazil, etc.) disagrees with UN decisions, nothing is going to happen.

On the other hand, despite what Libertarians and the right wing wants, the UN isn't going away anytime soon. I think it's still a useful public forum to air views and to negotiate global consensus. And if the CRN has a chance to influence statements made in that forum so much the better. Call me shameless internationalist fanboy if you want.


I could be totally wrong about it, but if I'm not mistaken, diamondoid or MNT armor can still liquidate (or at least malfunction, in case of MNT) given it has sufficiently heated. high-explosive ammunition will have almost no cost at that point and should destroy such a tank eventually, unless it has a really good way of equalizing heat inside the hull and transferring it to the ground. I'd imagine 30mm autocannons firing explosive rounds (at 6K+ RPM) would make whatever portion of the hull they're hitting liquidate pretty fast.

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