I've had a high fantasy/fictional universe building up in my head for years, however it's timeline extends much further beyond the classic middle ages, going up to modern times and having it's own ancient times as well. I'm currently working on Elven technology in the modern period of this universe, and their primary strengths are in biotechnology, agriculture, artwork and literature, precision-based tasks, herbal medicine, bioplastics, and martial arts. They would have their standard allergy to Iron like in other fantasy universes, although this would be more restricted to pure iron, they would still have iron-based blood. However, other than essential nutrient minerals and naturally occurring mithral-aluminum ores, Heavy metals such as iron, lead, copper etc are exceedingly scarce in their home environment, and this quickly became apparent as firearms and other gunpowder weapons became more and more advanced.

So I'm thinking about giving them special, high-gravity bio-polymer bullets, preferably from a renewable source, that can achieve densities rivaling that of heavy metals WITHOUT just filling normal plastic with metal fillers. The other components of the cartridge should be feasible enough(caseless rounds and polymer-cased rounds exist in real life, and there are propellants derived from organic compounds like nitrocellulose) to not stress me out about authenticity. It's just the projectile or bullet itself I'm having issues theorizing without using some form of high density metal/mineral, and so far I haven't found any real life polymers with high enough density to reference to. I know this is probably putting way too much detail into it, but that's the whole point, I want it to be detailed and actually look like what life would be like in a fantasy universe. Magic is out of the question either, because while it could counter this issue in some way, it's difficult and dangerous to learn, while mass production using magic is virtually impossible due to the amount of mages of high enough experience required. I just want to confirm if a polymer of these characteristics is scientifically plausible.

Edit: My apologies for the wall of text, This is my first post. I tried to squeeze it into paragraphs to the best of my ability. To be more specific, I mainly just want to come up with an effective ammunition type that is meant to be sustainably produced, disposable, but effective enough for the military, metal ammunition would still probably be used in other situations. Also, on the topic of carbon as everyone so far has been mentioning diamonds, There are "superdense carbon allotropes" that apparently can go as high as 7.06 g/cm3(according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superdense_carbon_allotropes), but these are produced under very high pressures which is probably gonna be too expensive and energy consumptive, plus I assume that they are going to be at least as hard as diamond or even harder, so the bullets would need to be coated with a soft substance(like real life plastic coated bullets) or else it would damage the barrel. And it's still not as dense as lead or copper, so the bullet would have to be longer as well in order to achieve similar weight.

  • $\begingroup$ At present, this is a wall of text which burns retinas and makes eyeballs explode. Please edit in some paragraphs in order to make it readable. We also invite you to take our tour and read-up in the help center about how we work. Welcome to worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2021 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ "It's just the projectile or bullet itself I'm having issues theorizing without using some form of high density metal/mineral, primarily because that's negating the primary advantage of polymer over metal: weight": this doesn't make any sense. If you were able to produce an organic polymer of similar density (which no, you can't), it'd have exactly the same weight as a metal or mineral of the same density. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2021 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @ChristopherJamesHuff I meant to say that, a polymer of similar density would weigh the same as a metal, I don't know why I pointed out the advantage plastic would have in other situations over metal $\endgroup$ May 8, 2021 at 17:58

2 Answers 2


It sounds unlikely.

Let's just make a simple model: the bullet is made by atoms of packed in the same way, be they iron or carbon, with no difference in size between an atom of iron and one of carbon and neglecting that a polymer is made also by atoms lighter than carbon.

The atomic weight of iron is 55.8, while the atomic weight of carbon is 12. This alone gives that density of iron is at least 4 times that of carbon, which is also the case in reality, iron being 7.8 $g/cm^3$ and carbon being 2.26 $g/cm^3$.

To have comparable densities you would need to have about 4 times the number of carbon atoms in the same volume, which is hard to achieve within the boundary of the physics we know.

  • $\begingroup$ diamond is better than graphite but does not come close to iron. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    May 8, 2021 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ One of the most dense plastics is PTFE with a density of 2.2 g/cm3 $\endgroup$
    – user81881
    May 8, 2021 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ You can try moving down the periodic table to increase atomic weight, but packing efficiency suffers and makes it hard to beat diamond within the rough limits given. Of course, this raises another issue, with so much of the periodic table off-limits you're going to have a hard time actually supporting life. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2021 at 18:50

Diamond has a density of 3.5g/cm3, and iron has a density of 7.8 g/cm3 so no. You could nudge it up a bit perhaps, there are superdense carbon allotrpes, but they tend to be just 3% more dense.

As such, they should be at a genuine disadvantage to those who manage to acquire a source of metals. Their weapons will penetrate less, their armor will resist less damage, and they'll face issues in a fight.

Their enemies won't have metal armor, so they'll not be able to resist gunfire as effectively. The ceramic plates that resist bullets are made of metals. If everyone is weaker, combat can function fine.

  • $\begingroup$ I only want a good material for nonmetallic ammunition, they would still use metal and ceramic for other things, just not as an expendable resource. Also there's countless renewable nonmetallic materials that can be just as effective or superior to metal plating, like bio-based uhmwpe, spider silk, maybe carbon nanotubes(if you get them from renewable carbon sources), and biocomposites. Would it seem plausible if an organism naturally produced a superdense biomaterial to provide protection in a very dangerous environment of magic, dragons, and other mythical creatures? $\endgroup$ May 9, 2021 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ Also there are superdense carbon allotropes with a density of 7 g/cm3, which is still not quite on the level of iron but it's pretty close. if given a polymer coating would they be viable? $\endgroup$ May 9, 2021 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ MP8 is a hypothetical carbon allotrope that only appears under immense pressure. It would explode outside of whatever handled it. Non metallic materials are tough and harder than metals often, as density only has a loose correlation with toughness, so many renewable non metallic materials have their uses, but if you value density, metals are needed because they form metallic bonds, which allow them to pack together more tightly. Magic could get around that, but without magic, it isn't plausible. Covalent bonds aren't as good at packing as metallic bonds. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    May 9, 2021 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ In terms of evolving against dragons, which tend to horde metal, they'll be at a disadvantage vs metallic dragons. They'll need to seek alternatives to gain combat supremacy rather than hyper dense materials, as non metals aren't that dense without immense pressure. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    May 9, 2021 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ Well I've read about scientists being able to shrink objects several times over in real life. I've also seen hypervelocity, low-weight projectiles as well, while I think most of them are just made of a lighter metal, I've seen ceramic-polymer ones as well. Would a hypervelocity polymer bullet going really fast be just as effective as normal projectiles? $\endgroup$ May 22, 2021 at 15:39

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