Technology

Mantis Shrimp-Inspired Material is Stronger than Airplanes

April 23, 2014 | by Janet Fang

Photo credit: A mantis shrimp in the lab of David Kisailus / Carlos Puma
 
The mighty, mighty mantis shrimp is a colorful and fearsome predator that can smash its opponent (and aquariums walls) to pieces using its arms that are covered with hard exoskeleton. Researchers hoping to harness its power have now created a material that’s stronger than what’s used in airplane frames.  
 
Also known as a stomatopd (Odontodactylus scyllarus), the 4 to 6-inch long smashing predator has a fist-like “mineralized dactyl club” that can withstand thousands of high-velocity blows, which it delivers to its prey. The force created by the impact of its club is more than 1,000 times its own weight, and underwater, the club accelerates faster than a 22-caliber bullet. 
 
Much of the impact resistance and shock absorbance is thanks to the spiraling (or helicoidal) arrangement of mineralized fiber layers on an area of the club called the endocuticle region. Each layer is rotated by a small angle from the layer below it, eventually completing a 180-degree turn.
 
A team led by David Kisailus of the University of California, Riverside, applied the helicoidal, layered design to the fabrication of high-performance carbon fiber-epoxy composites. 
 
 
Using different helicoidal angles, the team tested their new bioinspired impact-resistant composite material using the “drop weight” method that replicates testing done by the aerospace industry. 
 
The new material did very well compared with the “quasi-isotropic” control -- the industry's standard structure, which has alternating layers stacked on each other. The dent depth damage to the helicoidal samples was 20 to 50 percent less than the quasi-isotropic samples. In compression tests, helicoidal samples displayed a 15 to 20 percent increase in residual strength after impact compared to the quasi-isotropic samples.
 
“The more we study the club of this tiny crustacean, the more we realize its structure could improve so many things we use every day,” Kisailus says in a news release. The composite material could be useful for a variety of applications, from planes and cars to armor and helmets.
 
The work was published in Acta Biomaterialia this week. 
 
[Via UCR]
 
 
Images: Carlos Puma (top), UC Riverside (middle)
 
 

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