Tough multifunctional electronics based on bullet-proof Kevlar

November 5, 2014

Tungsten-coated Kevlar with a Kevlar (uncoated) background (credit: S.Atanasov/NCSU)

North Carolina State University researchers have “woven” high-strength, highly conductive yarns made of tungsten metal on Kevlar — aka body armor material — by using atomic layer deposition (ALD), a process commonly used for producing memory and logic devices.

The tungsten-on-Kevlar yarns are expected to find applications in multifunctional protective electronics materials for electromagnetic shielding and communications, as well as erosion-resistant antistatic fabrics for space and automated technologies.

The group selected ALD as a process because it allows them to deposit highly conformal films on nonplanar surfaces with even, nanometer-thickness precision.

While weaving together multiple fabrics to combine multiple capabilities certainly isn’t new, characteristics such as high strength, high conductivity, and flexibility are frequently regarded as being mutually exclusive — so concessions are often made to get the most important one.

The researchers will present the development during the AVS 61st International Symposium & Exhibition in Baltimore Nov. 9–14.

* The ALD process begins by exposing the substrate’s surface to one gas-phase chemical, in this case tungsten hexafluoride (WF6), followed by removal of any unreacted material. This is chased with surface exposure to a second gas-phase chemical, silane (SiH4), after which any unreacted material is once again removed. By the end of the ALD cycle, the two chemicals have reacted to produce tungsten