Unraveling the Effect of Material Properties and Geometrical Factors on Ballistic Penetration Energy of Nanoscale Thin Films

Zhaoxu Meng, Sinan Keten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


It is crucial to investigate the dynamic mechanical behavior of materials at the nanoscale to create nanostructured protective systems that have superior ballistic impact resistance. Inspired from recent experimental advances that enable ballistic materials testing at small scales, here we report a comparative analysis of the dynamic behavior of nanoscale thin films made from multilayer graphene (MLG), polymer, gold, and aluminum under high-speed projectile impact. We employ atomistic and coarse-grained (CG) molecular dynamics (MD) simulations to measure the ballistic limit velocity (V50) and penetration energy (Ep) of these nanoscale films and investigate their distinctive failure mechanisms over a wide range of impact velocities (Vi). For the local penetration failure mechanism observed in polymer and metal films, we find that the intrinsic mechanical properties influence Ep at low Vi, while material density tends to govern Ep at high Vi. MLG films uniquely show a large impact propagation zone (IPZ), which transfers the highly localized impact energy into elastic deformation energy in a much larger area through cone wave propagation. We present theoretical analyses that corroborate that the size of IPZ should depend not only on material properties but also on a geometrical factor, specifically, the ratio between the projectile radius and film thickness. This study clearly illustrates how material properties and geometrical factors relate to the ballistic penetration energy, thereby allowing a quantitative comparison of the nanoscale ballistic response of different materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2696688
JournalJournal of Applied Mechanics, Transactions ASME
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • ballistic impact
  • geometrical factor
  • impact propagation zone
  • molecular dynamics
  • thin films

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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