A composite designed Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) reinforced by a material with a failure mode that will strengthen the system may significantly improve on modern armor designs. UHMWPE is considerably less dense than steel or high density ceramics. It is reasonable to consider making improvements to the weight-performance of armor by using the lower density UHMWPE and combining it with inserts of a high-density ceramic. A cellular ceramic encapsulated by rubber may significantly increase the amount of kinetic energy a composite will absorb through a phase transition.
It is theorized that a series of ceramic inserts distributed in a polymer matrix will result in an increased impact resistance. Shock propagation in the ceramic will be minimal, and the elastomeric properties of the polymer will provide maximum tensile support. The ceramic inserts will act as a stress concentrator and physical resistor to the impacting object. When the ceramic inserts are shattered by the impactor they will impart a resistive force by forcing additional deformation in the polymer matrix. Study of design variations by examination of multiple geometries for the ceramic inserts will maximize the impact resistance of the structure. The resistance of the structure is enhanced by providing a multi-dimensional failure mode. The ceramic, once shattered, will still occupy space, forcing additional plastic deformation, and additional deformation in the impactor.
Bayless, Trenin; Downey, Jerome; Cougill, Scott; and Lucon, Peter, "Computational Polyethylene-Ceramic Composite Plate Design and Optimization" (2020). TECHxpo. 24.