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Temperature-insensitive silicone composites as ballistic witness materials: the impact of water content on the thermophysical properties



Ran Tao, Fan Zhang, Huong Giang Nguyen, Philip Bernstein, Amanda L. Forster, Randy Mrozek, Aaron M. Forster


In this work, different formulations of a room-temperature silicone composite backing material (SCBM) composed of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), fumed silica and corn starch were investigated using different characterization techniques, i.e., differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetry analysis, X-ray diffraction (XRD) and small-angle X-ray scattering, as a function of controlled relative humidity. At ambient relative humidities in the range of about 20–80%, the equilibrium water content in the SCBM ranges from approximately 4–10%, which is predominantly absorbed by the corn starch. This amount of water content has been shown to have minimal effect on thermal transition temperatures (melting and glass transition) of the SCBMs. The enthalpy of melting increases with increasing relative humidity, which reflects the heterogeneous semicrystalline structure of starch granules and the role of moisture in facilitating the formation of amylopectin double helices mainly in the imperfect crystalline regions. The thermal degradation of SCBM exhibits three major mass loss steps that correspond to dehydration, decomposition of corn starch and decomposition of PDMS. The XRD patterns reveal a characteristic diffuse peak for amorphous PDMS and an A-type crystallinity for the corn starch. The XRD results show no observable changes in the crystal type and crystallinity as a function of moisture content. Results from this work help clarify the fundamental structure–property relationships in SCBMs, which are important for future development of documentary standards, especially the handling and storage specifications of next-generation ballistic witness materials for body armor testing.
Journal of Materials Science


Polymer composite, PDMS, material characterization, thermal analysis, corn starch, moisture sorption, ballistic testing


Tao, R. , Zhang, F. , Nguyen, H. , Bernstein, P. , Forster, A. , Mrozek, R. and Forster, A. (2021), Temperature-insensitive silicone composites as ballistic witness materials: the impact of water content on the thermophysical properties, Journal of Materials Science, [online],, (Accessed May 22, 2024)


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Created July 28, 2021, Updated November 29, 2022