Plastic fantastic seals in speeding projectiles
Layered polymer nanomaterial wraps around penetrating particles
To me this is really interesting, beyond the raw science, as a way to potentially build better shields for spacecraft. My understanding of current space craft shields (to protect from the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet material flying about in space) is to have several layers of metal (aluminum is popular because of its weight) each fairly thin (eighth inch or so) spaced a few inches apart such that the particle is vaporized when it hits the first shield and the debris is caught on the second (or subsequent, in the case of the larger objects) shield. It does seem, though, that debris shields will remain something that needs regular replacement as it would basically be designed to wear out over time (sort of like the heat shield on the early Apollo capsules). However, it would take additional experimentation to identify if using plastics would result in lighter-weight shields that give the same (or better) protection.