When it comes to protecting America's combat troops in battle, research under way at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University (FSU) College of Engineering could be a lifesaver.

Under a partnership with Armor Holdings Inc. of Jacksonville, FSU researchers are developing and testing firstofits-kind body armor for soldiers. The armor protects arms and legs and could reduce fatalities as well as loss of limbs.

Most people who die in military conflicts don't die from getting shot. Seventy-five to 80% die from getting hit by shrapnel and excessive bleeding.

Troops already receive protective helmets, bulletproof vests and shoulder armor to help them survive combat, but typically their arms and legs are exposed. The armor would be among the first products manufactured by the defense industry to protect a soldier's extremities.

FSU researchers are also experimenting with polymers toughened with carbon nanotubes to improve the strength of fabrics used to make bulletproof armor.

In developing the new body armor, multiple layers of fabric and plastic materials are bound together. Ballistics tests show the combination of materials exceeds the new requirements for bulletproof vests while providing the necessary aesthetic and mechanical properties so the armor can be worn comfortably. Prototype armor will go to Armor Holdings which will manufacture production versions for field testing.