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October 9, 2019

WPI engineer researching shape-shifting bullet-proof tech

Courtesy | WPI Nikhil Karanjgaokar is an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at WPI.

A Worcester Polytechnic Institute engineer has received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation for research to potentially lead to next generation bullet-proof vests sensing the speed of a bullet and shape-shifts for greater shock protection.

Nikhil Karanjgaokar, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at WPI, has received a five-year long NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program to fund his wave motion research. His research focuses on granular materials with the ability to alter their shapes or change their original properties to absorb and redirect the force of an incoming bullet or object.

Karanjgaokar’s research focuses on granular materials manipulated with electric or magnetic fields, causing the materials to respond and change their shape in the area of an incoming impact. They could disrupt the direction, speed and force of the wave away from the person wearing the vest or helmet.

The new kind of shape-shifting materials could provide greater shock protection in equipment, such as vests and helmets, worn by the military, police, athletes and construction workers.

The technology could be used as a protective covering for buildings or even to protect NASA’s International Space Station, satellites and spacecraft from being damaged by space junk and meteorites.

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