1. PsiLens

    PsiLens New Member

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    A futuristic material to make spaceship hulls and power armor out of?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by PsiLens, Jan 12, 2020.

    Technically, I could just borrow some vague, stock sci-fi term like "durasteel" or something and leave it at that, but I didn't want to do that. As a hard sci-fi fan, I like to think up tech that actually makes sense. So even if I did end up calling my future armor material "durasteel", I still want to define what exactly it is.

    My first thought was to have it be some kind of nanocomposite. Maybe ceramic nanofibers embedded in a matrix of high impact-strength steel, hence, "durasteel". But then, I considered that using a titanium alloy as the matrix might be a better idea, since it would be lighter which is an important factor in spacecraft and wearable armor.

    Then I came to the realization that I am by no means a materials engineer and I'm going solely off of a layman's knowledge. So if anyone who's more knowledgeable in this matter could pitch in, that would be neat.
     
  2. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Vibranium?

    And I was going to add "transparent aluminum" as seen in Star Trek IV, but I recently read that there is now actually such a thing. It's not practical, but Scotty hasn't had any input to it yet.

    Seriously, unless it's important that the source of the material be credible, I'd just hand-wave it. It's a given that there are going to be technologies and alloys which are unknown to us now, just as we routinely use stuff that was unknown to people five hundred years ago. If your characters take the existence of such a substance as a fact of life and go on with it, I'm sure your readers will, too.
     
  3. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Spider silk is up to 5 times stronger than steel for the same weight, and up to 10 times tougher than kevlar.
     
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  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I've got no use for kale... Contributor

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    Which would also afford you the opportunity to include a race of giant ass spiders that squirt silk for the ship building companies all day! I would make them drunk and foul-mouthed like most dock workers. That's literary gold!
     
  5. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    :write::write::write:

    DED761A6-F249-488B-BDF5-9A6C8001DB23.jpeg
     
  6. shiba0000

    shiba0000 Member

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    When thinking about armor, you would first have to consider the threats it's designed for. Ex: ballistic threats, CBRN, industrial hazards, animals, etc.
    Other factors like cost and logistics can impact the design as well. It wouldn't be a good choice to issue personnel the highest-end tech if it makes the budget unable to support every other need, or if the tech is too difficult to transport.
    Power armor design would depend on its purpose. Ex:
    Infantry needs it to be lightweight, breathable, and protective against common rounds used by the enemy in vital areas (chest, abdomen, thighs), with CBRN gear compatibility. The armor needs to be easily removable for medical when the user becomes injured. It can't be too bulky or it will be defeated by bollards, rough terrain, and door frames.
    Firefighters need it to resist extreme heat, protect the head/spine from falling debris, and bear the weight of extrication equipment.

    IMG_0142.JPG
    In space, like air combat, defensive priority would be stealth and countermeasures. Distances and relative speed between spacecraft would be so great that, with a stealth exterior to minimize the radar signature, you'd mostly likely not even encounter the enemy unless they knew your flight path. It'd be nice to prevent the enemy from nuking your ship from across the solar system with a space-to-space missile. See whipple shields for protection against hypervelocity micrometeorites.
     
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  7. PsiLens

    PsiLens New Member

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    Thanks for the detailed response! I'm very much familiar with whipple shields, but in a far-future setting with soft sci-fi tech like energy shields, a physical whipple shield would be pretty much obsolete since the energy shield would essentially do the same job and unlike a whipple shield, it would be reusable. Still, whipple shields can still have a place in more low-tech designs (whose deflector shields might be less reliable or nonexistent), or simply in more near-future hard sci-fi settings.

    As for the concept of stealth in space combat, I believe The Expanse (the books I mean, haven't watched the show yet) addresses it rather well - a radar-absorbing hull coating helps a ship hide in plain sight (space being a whole lotta nothing with not much to hide behind), but only when it's idle because the engines' heat signature sticks out like a sore thumb and can't be hidden. Similarly so in the Paul Sinclair/JAG in Space trilogy, except that here, all ships have stealth tech so they can only be seen if they're maneuvering, or if they want to be seen. On the other hand, in The Lost Fleet saga (same author as Paul Sinclair trilogy, but this time in a "softer" far-future setting), stealth is pretty much impossible for capital ships because their energy signatures are too large and the highly-advanced sensors of other ships are too sensitive. Only small ships like shuttles or fighters get to be stealthy.

    But still, while you gave me a great response when it comes to armor design, I was actually asking about armor material. I'd like to think that in my futuristic setting, nano-manufacturing becomes easier, cheaper and more "mainstream", allowing the military-industrial complex to mass-produce armor made of metal alloys reinforced with ceramic or polymer nanofibers. I just haven't worked out the specifics because I'm not a materials engineer. What are the pros and cons of using a steel matrix instead of a titanium alloy? What kind of material would be best for the reinforcing nanofibers? Even if I don't include all these technical details in the story, as a huge nerd and hard SF fan, I'd still like to have this figured out, even if it's just for my own sake.
     
  8. shiba0000

    shiba0000 Member

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    STEEL
    +cheap
    +can take multiple hits
    +thin profile
    -heavy
    -spall fragmentation
    -transfers more impact to body, usually worn with liners that increase bulk

    CERAMIC
    +lightweight
    +directs impact laterally along fractures
    -fragile when dropped

    COMPOSITE
    >entirely depends on design (which is kept secret by the manufacturers), but usually is a combination of traits from both

    Steel plates can sustain multiple hits because it deforms instead of cracking. Titanium is more brittle than steel, but if you wanted lightweight and brittle armor, ceramic is the way to go. Check out SAPI armor that the US military uses for reference on ceramic armor.

    For soft armor, you can impregnate fabric (kevlar, carbon nanotube, graphene, etc) with sheer-thickening fluid to increase protection while decreasing weight and bulk. It'd make full body armor viable for stopping shrapnel.
     
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  9. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Contributor Contributor

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    This sounds wrong. Do you have any actual source for this?

    OP, look up dragonskin armor for inspiration. It's cutting edge armor tech.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
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  10. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    What type of armor your want depends on what type of weapons your enemy has. It's happened in the past where protection has moved backwards because of changes to weapons. In the dark ages, tough metal armor was common on the battlefield. It protected against arrows, swords, spears, and the tougher and lighter it was, the better. That quickly changed when guns were introduced. The metal armor no longer had the ability to defend against the new weapons, so they became antiquated. Since no armor could be created that could stop a bullet, it disappeared almost entirely. I could see that happening again.

    What if your enemy has a handheld gamma ray laser weapon? Steel plating and Kevlar wan't do shit. Armor may morph into high tech reflecting fiber optics.
    What if your enemy has plasma weapons? Armor would change into heat shielding tech because steel would just make the burns worse.
    ...
     
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_silk

    Citations are in the article.
     
  12. shiba0000

    shiba0000 Member

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    Dragon skin is just gimmicky ceramic disks held together by glue. The US military rejected it because the glue falls apart when sneezed on. XSAPI plates are the real deal, and while technically legal, manufacturers have an unspoken rule to not sell it to civilians.
     
  13. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Living organic systems in quantum symbiosis with the armor. Absorb energy and transfer it or redirect it to enemy. Set free, it would prey on any source of energy encountered - a rogue until it finds its way to its symbiote master.
     
  14. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Babylon 5.
     
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  15. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Vorlon were living ships in symbiosis with their masters.
     
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  16. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    I meant the Minbari ships (speficically the White Stars) that used partial Vorlon tech and had energy absorbing organic armour.
     
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  17. PsiLens

    PsiLens New Member

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    Thanks mate.
     
  18. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    The White Star class was my favorite fleet ship! Exceeded only by the Sun Crusher.
     
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  19. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Mine was the Narn G'Quan class heavy cruiser.
     
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  20. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Senior Member

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    How on earth has this conversation gotten so far and Graphene only had a passing one word mention by one person? :)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene

    100 times stronger than the strongest steel, whilst being less dense.
    conducts heat and electricity very efficiently and is nearly transparent
    shows a large and nonlinear diamagnetism,
    Can be tuned to be a conductor OR an insulator.

    And just last week, they found out it's even MORE "tunable" and can be angled to give it at least 4 other different properties.

    If you're a hard scifi writer, and you want a vibranium real life near-future alternative, Graphene is your go-to.
     
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  21. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    I don't want those damn dirty aliens to see what I get up to in the privacy of my own ship.
     
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  22. KiraAnn

    KiraAnn Active Member

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    If you have shields, then why do you need physical armor?
     
  23. PsiLens

    PsiLens New Member

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    Because the ships will need a second line of defense once the shields fail. And fail they will, because every technology has weaknesses, drawbacks and limitations.

    Example: In Dune, personal protection shields have rendered guns nearly obsolete. However, blades can get through just fine because the person inside the shield bubble still needs to breathe and interact with their surroundings, so the shields only block fast moving objects like bullets or shrapnel.

    Therefore, you get a high-tech sci-fi setting where people still swing sharp pieces of metal at each other. It's a rock-paper-scissors kinda deal - gun might beat knife, but shield beats gun and knife beats shield.

    But even if you didn't care about writing interesting interactions like these, fictional technology still needs to have flaws to be believable, much like characters do. And besides, making the shields into indestructible plot armor that only fails if it's convenient is very shitty writing.
     
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  24. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll What do you mean, 'no more abductions'? :P Contributor

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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I would say to have a look into some of the hardest metals
    and materials that are in excess, and make thick double
    hulls, for an extra layer of protection.

    A shield depending on how realistic you are going with it,
    may only be a good defense against particle accelerators
    and preventing your poor crew getting a not so healthy
    dose of radiation. :p
    You can use plasma shielding as a 'ballistic' barrier, which
    would be more helpful than just an electro-magnetic shield
    to keep out the pesky particle accelerator blasts.

    https://www.transmet.com/the-10-strongest-materials-known-to-man/

    This site seems to have a decent list of 'Armor' quality materials
    that can be used as a standalone, or in a composite, depending
    on Hard you want the science in the fiction to be.
    Though if you happen to have a ship with a thick diamond hull,
    that would be plausible, given we have found a planet that is
    pretty much solid diamond.

    Or you can opt for the old fan favorite fictional metal tougher than
    anything known in the fiction-verse: Adamantium. :p

    Just depends on how plausible or fantastic you feel it needs to be to
    work in your story's universe.
     

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