Scientists at the University of Sydney have developed a new material that can be used to produce bullet-repelling vests for military use.

The researchers at the Centre for Advanced Materials Technology say the elastic properties of carbon nanotubes can be harnessed to rebound the force of bullets.

Carbon nanotubes are a one-atom thick sheet of graphite, rolled into a cylinder that his held together by a strong chemical bond known as orbital hybridisation.

Bullet-proof vests, made from materials such as Kevlar, Twaron or Dyneema, stop a bullet penetrating by spreading its force, which can still leave the wearer suffering from blunt force trauma like bruising or internal bleeding.

The researchers are experimenting to find the optimum point of elasticity for the most effective bullet-bouncing gear.

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh