Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by loges from Melbourne. loges Wonders, “How do bullet proof vests work?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, loges!

Have you ever thought about your future career? Many kids dream of being in the military. Some want to become police officers. In these lines of work, there’s a type of clothing you will probably have to get used to wearing. No, we’re not talking about the uniform. We’re thinking about something that protects you from danger: the bulletproof vest!

Have you ever seen a television show about police? How about a war movie? If so, you may have seen bulletproof vests. These often life-saving articles of clothing are meant to prevent death or serious injury from a wide variety of dangers, including bullets.

Those same movies and television shows have probably made it clear to you just how dangerous bullets can be. They’re meant to be deadly, and they often are. For the people who protect our country and communities, though, they don’t have to be. Thanks to modern technology, even the mighty bullet can be stopped!

You’re probably WONDERing exactly HOW bulletproof vests stop bullets. After all, they’re worn by people who often have to move around quickly. It’s not like they can wear a brick wall around themselves! No, they need “soft” body armor. It needs to allow easy movement.

To understand how these types of bulletproof vests work, it might help if you’re a soccer player. What? It’s true! Picture how the net on a soccer goal catches and stops a soccer ball. It can even stop one kicked by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Megan Rapinoe! Bulletproof vests stop bullets the same way. They’re made of web-like nets of special fabrics.

A soccer goal’s net absorbs the ball’s energy. It spreads the energy out across all the fibers in the net. This slows and then stops the ball’s forward movement. The tightly-woven, flexible synthetic fibers in a bulletproof vest do the same thing. The fibers in the vest “catch” the bullet. They bring it to a stop before it can penetrate the body and cause serious injury or even death.

Of course, if you’ve ever seen a soccer ball kicked into a goal, you know that the net lets the ball travel a little way before it stops it. Bulletproof vests can’t let bullets do the same thing. That’s why the fibers in a bulletproof vest must be packed together much tighter. They’re so densely packed that you could think of them as thousands of soccer goal nets overlapped and piled on top of each other.

How can so much fabric fit in one vest? That’s where the modern technology of synthetic fibers comes into play. As early as 1965, the chemical company DuPont made a synthetic fiber known for its high strength, low weight, and resistance to chemicals, cuts, and fire. This fiber was called Kevlar. It was soon used to make the first generation of flexible, concealable body armor.

Since that time, DuPont and other companies have made a wide variety of such synthetic fibers. But guess what might be the fiber of the future? Would you believe genetically-modified spider silk? Maybe!

Today’s bulletproof vests will protect against most common low-caliber handguns. But high-powered weapons, especially rifles, can still penetrate bulletproof vests. The only protection from these types of weapons is usually “hard” bulletproof armor made of rigid ceramics and metals. Unfortunately, these types of body armor are usually too bulky and heavy to wear for everyday use.

Bulletproof vests do a very important job. They help keep many people in law enforcement and the military safe. Of course, technology makes new things possible every day. Can you imagine an even more effective bulletproof vest? What would it be made of? What would it look like? Take some time to think through your new design today!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4

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