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Assessing Behind Armor Blunt Trauma in Accordance With the National Institute of Justice Standard for Personal Body Armor Protection Using Finite Element Modeling

Roberts, Jack C. PhD; Ward, Emily E. MS; Merkle, Andrew C. MS; O’Connor, James V. MS, MD

The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care: May 2007 - Volume 62 - Issue 5 - p 1127-1133
doi: 10.1097/
Original Articles

Background: To assess the possibility of injury as a result of behind armor blunt trauma (BABT), a study was undertaken to determine the conditions necessary to produce the 44-mm clay deformation as set forth in the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Standard 0101.04. These energy levels were then applied to a three-dimensional Human Torso Finite Element Model (HTFEM) with soft armor vest. An examination will be made of tissue stresses to determine the effects of the increased kinetic energy levels on the probability of injury.

Methods: A clay finite element model (CFEM) was created with a material model that required nonlinear properties for clay. To determine these properties empirically, the results from the CFEM were matched with experimental drop tests. A soft armor vest was modeled over the clay to create a vest over clay block finite element model (VCFEM) and empirical methods were again used to obtain material properties for the vest from experimental ballistic testing. Once the properties for the vest and clay had been obtained, the kinetic energy required to produce a 44-mm deformation in the VCFEM was determined through ballistic testing. The resulting kinetic energy was then used in the HTFEM to evaluate the probability of BABT.

Results: The VCFEM, with determined clay and vest material properties, was exercised with the equivalent of a 9-mm (8-gm) projectile at various impact velocities. The 44-mm clay deformation was produced with a velocity of 785 m/s. This impact condition (9-mm projectile at 785 m/s) was used in ballistic exercises of the HTFEM, which was modeled with high-strain rate human tissue properties for the organs. The impact zones were over the sternum anterior to T6 and over the liver. The principal stresses in both soft and hard tissue at both locations exceeded the tissue tensile strength.

Conclusions: This study indicates that although NIJ standard 0101.04 may be a good guide to soft armor failure, it may not be as good a guide in BABT, especially at large projectile kinetic energies. Further studies, both numerical and experimental, are needed to assist in predicting injury using the NIJ standard.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.