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June 06, 2011
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Tim Dees Police Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees

Your next body armor might be made of Kryron

Carbon nanotubes haven’t yet made it into large-scale fabrication because the methods for developing long strands of the nanotubes have proven difficult to master

Through the years, body armor materials have taken on many odd names: Kevlar, Twaron, Dyneema, and Spectra, among others. The newest material, still undergoing testing, is called Kryron. It’s claimed to offer a protection-to-weight ratio higher than anything presently on the market, but it’s the market itself that might keep this product out of your hands.

Kryron is the invention of a tradesman inventor named John Borque (who has founded a company called Borque Industries). Borque was a union carpenter until he suffered an injury that affected his balance and made it unsafe for him to be on a job site. He opened a small business in Tucson, AZ and started researching methods for chrome-plating plastics and rubber.

It was during this research that he learned about carbon nanotubes. This relatively new material is one of the strongest substances on earth, and it’s all but completely resistant to chemical and UV light degradation. In fact, one of the problems associated with carbon nanotube material is what to do with it when you’re done using it — it’s all but impossible to break down. Carbon nanotubes haven’t yet made it into large-scale fabrication because the methods for developing long strands of the nanotubes have proven difficult to master.

Borque was working with carbon nanotube technology to produce anodes for a metal deposition process called “electrowinning.” Electrowinning can be used to coat materials with pure metals such as aluminum and copper. It was through this research he learned to produce an aluminum alloy he patented, called Kryron.

Kryron is a rigid material suitable for helmets and hard inserts for body armor packages. In a law enforcement application, it would probably be combined with a conventional ballistically-resistant material such as Kevlar or Dyneema fiber. Unlike the ceramic inserts typically used to boost the resistance of body armor to projectiles, Kryron does not fragment or spall when struck with a high-velocity projectile. It is also lighter than ceramic material providing a comparable level of protection.

Borque has field-tested a military-style helmet made of Kryron against rifle and pistol rounds typically encountered on the battlefield, and had zero penetration. Local Tucson news outlets covered the demonstrations and are hopeful that Borque Industries is going to be the source of new jobs in the area. The material is now undergoing evaluation by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a process that costs around $180,000. If that proves successful, the way will be clear for Borque Industries’ products to reach the police marketplace.

NIJ approval doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in the marketplace. The 800 lb. gorilla in the body armor market is BAE Systems, which owns the products and companies that used to have names like Second Chance, American Body Armor, Monadnock, and others you may have heard of (most of BAE Systems’ police products are sold under the Safariland brand name). Borque approached BAE Systems with his new material, and, according to the Arizona Daily Star, “‘They pretty much told me to (get lost),’ he said, actually using unprintable language.”

If Kryron passes the NIJ tests, BAE Systems might change their tune, or another manufacturer could buy or license the technology. If not, it will be difficult at best for Borque to succeed, even with a superior product. It’s difficult and expensive to bring new tech to the law enforcement marketplace, no matter how good your wares might be. I, for one, wish him the best of luck.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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