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Kevlar-reinforced tape protects people, houses

When a hurricane looms, a new tape could soon help homeowners keep their walls from blowing apart.
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/ Source: Discovery Channel

When a hurricane looms, a new tape could soon help homeowners keep their walls from blowing apart. X Flex tape, a clear, Kevlar-reinforced tape tested and developed in conjunction with the U.S. military, is set to become available to civilians within the next year.

"You can paint over it or put wall paper over it," said Abboud Mamish of Berry Plastics Inc. who worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop X Flex. "Putting nails through it [to hang a picture] should not affect its ability to stop a two-by-four going 100 [m.p.h.]."

X Flex is three layers sandwiched together. The outer two layers are standard plastic wrap. Inside that are clear strands of Kevlar, the synthetic fabric used by soldiers for body armor, woven together at a 45 degree angle. The Kevlar strands allow the tape to bend and flex more than six inches but not break, stopping terrorist munitions or Mother Nature's fury.

X Flex tape protects soldiers in several ways. First, it holds the wall together, stopping incoming debris or shrapnel from a bomb, grenade or other munition from penetrating inside the structure.

The third way X Flex protects people and buildings is by blocking the wave of air pressure generated by the explosion. The highly compressed air, often called a shock wave, can rupture ear drums, damage the lungs and have other traumatic consequences.

If shrapnel or shock wave doesn't kill, sometimes the building will kill whoever is inside. X Flex holds the wall together so anyone inside has a chance to get out. The tape is so strong, say officials from Berry Plastics, that a wall exposed to a blast and reinforced with X Flex is stable enough to continue to use, depending on the building material.

"It will retain the wall shape and go about business as usual [after a blast]," said Mamish. "We proved to ourselves and our potential customers that it takes two large explosions."

X Flex has proven its mettle in the lab, but it has yet to be used in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Wayne Stroupe, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who helped to develop X Flex, says it may be used "at any given time depending on Army or military needs."

For those who worry more about tornadoes than terrorists, X Flex could soon help on the home front as well.

The US military won't release the specific testing conditions or munitions they used, but Berry Plastics claims that X Flex can stop a wood two-by-four from puncturing a home wall at 85 mph (hurricane conditions) and even 100 mph (tornado conditions).

Wherever you live, X Flex is easy to install. A 10x20 foot wall can be covered in X Flex in about 10 minutes. A proper installation, where a glue primer is applied before the plastic to help it stick better, takes about 20 minutes. After that X Flex is ready to take just about anything Mother Nature or Osama bin Laden can throw at it.