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Innovation: A Cheaper Alternative to Kevlar

Novana says it has developed an antiballistic material that is just as tough as Kevlar, but less expensive to make.
"The harder you hit this material, the more powerful it becomes." —F. Daniel Tsai, founder and CEO, Novana

Tougher Than a Speeding Bullet
Kevlar has long been the bulletproof material of choice for military and law enforcement agencies. But Kevlar is costly to produce, involving a complex process of spinning fibers and the use of sulfuric acid. Novana, based in Alpharetta, Georgia, says it has developed an antiballistic material, ABC-Matrix, that is just as tough but less expensive to make. To do so, Novana melts polymers from recycled plastics, including auto parts, and molds them into a lightweight material with microscopic structures that absorb and dissipate energy from bullets. The material, which is also waterproof and flame retardant, can withstand 3,000 rounds of fire from an AK-47 rifle. Novana has received a $70,000 grant from the Department of Defense to develop ABC-Matrix for use on battlefield vehicles. The company plans to begin selling it by 2013 for less than $10 a pound, a small fraction of the cost of Kevlar.

On Target
Shown here is a magnification of a three-quarter-inch-thick piece of Novana's antiballistic material and the remains of an armor-piercing bullet shot into the material at close range. In the same test, an identical bullet went straight through a half-inch-thick steel plate.

On the Mend
After taking a hit from a bullet, the polymers in Novana's material meld back together.

IMAGE: Jonathon Kambouris
From the October 2011 issue of Inc. magazine

J.J. MCCORVEY | Staff Writer | Inc. Reporter

J.J. McCorvey is a reporter at Inc. magazine, where he covers a wide range of topics, including technology and business research. He has covered metro news for The Detroit News, and his work has been featured in Men's Fitness.

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