Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Graphene Is Here. Dracoderm Is Coming.

Many heros of legend have been equipped—by means varying from 'blessings' by magical beings to bathing in the blood of, equally magical, dragons—with skins impenetrable by weapons; though usually, since that tends to be necessary for the story (1 2), there's some critical flaw that makes them vulnerable to those who know about it. Achilles's heel. Siegfried's (a.k.a. 'Sigurd') shoulder.

While impenetrable skin is biologically undesirable for humans, the next best thing is some kind of equally impenetrable armor, and the history of martial technology could be written as the history of armor and weapons designed to kill the wearer anyway. This goes for personal protection as well as the more large-scale kind.

The topic here tough is personal armor: the kind you wear on your body.

We've come a long way along that path. Science and technology have gone hand-in-hand to produce some fairly amazing materials, the currently-in-vogue one being Kevlar, which is the staple basis of most personal armor today, enhanced, for different purposes, with various other inlaid materials. One of the most recent variations on the 'personal armor' theme is something called 'Dragon Skin', which is, you must admit, quite impressive.

I have shamelessly latinized Dragon Skin to 'Dracoderm' and used it in my novels. There's even a domain name that goes with it, and which I am going to do some work on one of these days soon.

As usual with such technology-based things, reality tends to catch up with imagination these days; and though the still-to-be-invented 'Dracoderm' works on very different principles to the scaly Dragon Skin and provides radiation protection as well—don't you love it the way I talk about it as if it already existed?—there are some suggestions that we're getting there; and it may come as no surprise to those working in research on the properties of that amazing element, Carbon, which seems to provide an ever-broadening spectrum of possible configurations and resulting uses.

So, here's the two-dimensional configuration, called 'Graphene', being prodded by a diamond microprobe. (Yeah, I know it's a diagram!)

Click on the image for more info

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