It turns out that tiny, 3D-printed plastic cubes designed with intricate fractal voids in them might be what the industry needs to build new types of lightweight armor and materials that are effective against explosions and impacts.
The tiny cubes have proven to be effective at dissipating shockwaves five times more efficiently than what is out there right now.
While shockwave dispersing materials that benefit from similar voids are already out there, they typically involved random distributions that were made without know-how while some others used layers to reverberate shock and release waves.
Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory were able to precisely control the shape of the holes which consequently made it possible to test them as they were designed.
The fractal structured cubes were tested by firing an impactor into them at approximately 670 miles per hour. As a result, researchers saw that the structured cubes dissipated the shocks "five times better than solid cubes of the same material."
You can see how fractal structures of increasing complexity dissipate energy from shock waves simulated down below.
The results were considerably promising; however, researchers don't know yet if the fractal structure is the best design they can come up with. They are investigating other patterns that might offer even better results.
Once more work is done, the fractal cubes might acquire applications such as structural supports, protective layers for vehicles, helmets, or other human-wearable protection.