First responders are among those whose lives depend on body armor — and the ballistics fibers inside them. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new way to investigate the high-performance fibers used in modern body armor. The testing of soft body armor has been a big concern because the deployment of a new kind of fiber — believed to be superior to the previous material — unexpectedly failed in 2003, resulting in the death of a police officer. That and other incidents prompted a 2005 recall of some of the vests made with the new material.

While the degradation in the mechanical properties was self-evident, what was missing was an analytical technique to characterize the structural or chemical differences in the fibers that would account for their loss in performance.


The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.