The super strong materials have implications for future body armors, airplanes and the automobile industry.
Nature has inspired a great amount of innovative technologies over the years.
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Taking a leaf out of nature’s book, researchers are now developing ultra strong materials that will mimic the traits of a small marine crustacean called mantis shrimp that uses a fist-like appendage to crush the shells of its prey. These materials will have applications for futuristic body armors, aircrafts and automotive industry.
The appendage contains a previously unknown herringbone structure which allows mantis shrimp to inflict severe damage to its prey but protects the creature itself from the impact of the devastating blow. Shrimp’s appendages or dactyl clubs come in two varieties: smasher and spearer. Spearers hunt their prey by piercing them with spear-like structures while smashers as the name suggests smash their prey with the powerful blow of heavy appendage type club.
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside have been studying the structure of smasher’s appendages for the past several years and are using it properties to create the next generation of ultra strong materials. Although, many previous studies have examined in detail the architecture of dactyl club but the latest research was just limited to the outer layer or impact region of dactyl club.
“We knew from previous studies that the impact region allows the mantis shrimp to transfer incredible momentum to its prey while resisting fracture, but it was exciting to reveal through our research that the properties of this highly impact-resistant material are created by the novel herringbone structure.” Nicholas Yaraghi lead researcher of the study said.
Researchers theorized that herringbone structure within the appendage shields the dactyl club from the impact generated by smashing. To confirm their theory, they restructure herringbone pattern using synthetic materials and a 3D printer. Computational model showed that herringbone structure is actually responsible for making shrimp’s appendage stronger and crack resistant. It evenly distributes the force of impact to minimize the stresses on appendage.
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“The smasher mantis shrimp has evolved this exceptionally strong and impact-resistant dactyl club for one primary purpose – to be able to eat,” said David Kisailus. “However, the more we learn about this tiny creature and it’s multilayered structural designs, the more we realize how much it can help us as we design better planes, cars, sports equipment and armor.”