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Materials and Systems for Protection Against Penetrating and Blunt Force Phenomena


Penetrating and blunt force phenomena can cause serious trauma.  The STG performs research to advance materials science and metrology for materials and equipment intended to prevent traumatic injuries.  This work includes the establishment of novel metrologies and test methods, and the promulgation of documentary standards through leadership in standardization bodies.  Current research projects focus on the development of methods for characterizing impact-mitigating materials, and the development of methods and metrology for characterizing the performance of body armor and materials used in body armor testing.


Injury risks can be reduced by ensuring that protective equipment is well suited for the operational environment.  Often, achievement of this goal relies on research to understand the operational environment, the underlying physics that govern the response of materials and equipment, and the limitations of test methodologies used to characterize the equipment or materials used in the equipment. Insights developed from this research then inform standards-development activities, leading to improved metrologies for impact protection equipment. 

Impact-mitigating materials research aims to develop improved test methods for assessing the ability of materials to protect against sporting and similar moderate rate impacts.  The outcomes from this research will support improvements in impact protection equipment used in a wide array of applications (e.g., sporting helmets, riot helmets and riot gear, protective padding). 

An important application of impact-mitigating materials is to improve head protection technologies in athletic equipment.  A recent initiative, The Head Health Challenge III , was a joint effort of NIST, the National Football League, Under Armour, and GE to advance the state-of-the-art in advanced materials for impact mitigation, particularly when used in protective helmets.

Body armor research activities related to materials used in body armor and materials used for testing body armor are aimed at improving test metrologies and understanding long-term performance.  The outcomes from this research inform numerous standards development activities and provide a foundation for other guidance related to this equipment and relevant materials.

Related NIST Projects

Impact-mitigating materials

Head Health Challenge III

Body Armor

Body Armor

Body armor mounted on clay block as it undergoes ballistic-resistance testing.

Created October 18, 2017, Updated November 21, 2017