Ohio Team Developing Bomb-Proof Glass

A team of researchers at the University of Toledo was trying to make stronger, lighter armor for Army vehicles when the Army came calling with a special plea: Can you drop that research program and instead concentrate on making glass that can withstand bullets and bombs?

Insurgents in Iraq had figured out they couldn't always knock out an armored vehicle, but they could shoot through the windshield glass.Walter Roy, a materials engineer for the Army, made a special trip to the University of Toledo "to plead with us about this," said Arun Nadarajah, a professor in chemical and environmental engineering.

"It's one thing if someone gives you this idea abstractly, [and] abstractly asks, 'Would you consider doing this?' Then, probably not. But he came and made a very emotional pitch to the group," he said.

"I never met another government official like him. This guy was very different," Mr. Nadarajah said.

It was a dilemma for the research group of eight scientists and a dozen graduate students. For the previous two years, they'd been busy expanding their expertise on carbon nanofibers, which make a human hair look downright obese. Nanofibers were to be the key to creating strong, light armor. But there's a problem with taking that expertise and applying it to the Army's new request: You can't see through carbon. The UT group's work wouldn't transfer easily into making better windshields.

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