According to military statistics, nearly 70 percent of all casualties in the Iraqi conflict have been caused by roadside bombs. In Afghanistan alone, the number of deaths attributed to an improvised explosive device (IED) doubled to 176 in 2008 — and these numbers are increasing at a rapid pace. To combat these dangers, polymer and fiber engineering faculty member Gwynedd Thomas is part of a team developing new vehicle armor that provides military personnel greater protection against IED roadside bombs. Testing has shown that the group’s prototypes are able to absorb blast waves better than the standard rolled hardened steel that U.S. military vehicles currently use.
Thomas and colleague David Walrath of the University of Wyoming’s Department of Mechanical Engineering are working with Kennon Products, Inc. of Sheridan, Wyo., a manufacturer of protective equipment and coverings for aviation and military applications. Their extensive work with lightweight ballistic protection and composite materials is proving vital to the development of new designs that better withstand the blasts from these bombs.
"The designs that we are developing for explosion and ballistic protection will offer new and innovative solutions for all of our military services and will provide an increased degree of safety for our American men and women in combat,” said Thomas.