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Next Gen of Body Armor May Draw Inspiration from a Shrimp • Mirror Daily

This colorful shrimp could hold the key to the development of a new generation of super-resistant materials.

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Researchers say that they could use a newly-discovered hard tissue on the mantis shrimp to develop super-resistant materials. The shrimp reportedly uses a dactyl club to smash its hard-shelled prey’s crust.

In a recent paper, researchers described the fist-like appendage and a structure within its outer layer that withstands tremendous impact forces. Study authors believe that the organic material is stronger than anything they have ever seen in nature.

Scientists said that the protective layer which has a herringbone structure not only shields the dactyl club from damage but it also helps the tiny creature to inflict enormous damage.

But not all mantis shrimp have the fist-like structure. Only the animals nicknamed “smashers” do. The so-called “spearers” lack the structure as they hunt down their prey and spear it down, not club it.

Study authors wrote in a recent paper that the animal’s fist-like structure can reach an acceleration of 10,000 g hitting a target with the speed of a .22 caliber bullet.

Since 2008, the team of researchers led by Prof. David Kisailus from the Bourns College of Engineering in Riverside, CA, has been studying the smasher version of the mantis shrimp in an effort to develop some of the world’s strongest materials.

These materials could be later used to create fully bulletproof body armor, aircrafts, and impact-absorbent football helmets. Their research has already paid off as a startup is already implementing their ideas into real-world applications.

In a 2012 research paper, the research team detailed the dactyl club. Back then, study authors found a structure within the appendage with an energy-absorbent feature. That structure absorbs the shear waves resulting in the wake of a highly energetic impact.

The structure consists in two layers. One layer is made of chitin, a strong material which hardens the shells of various marine creatures, while the second layer is made of calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate. The chitin-based layer is a structure very similar to a spiral staircase, researchers noted.

The two layers make up the so-called “periodic region” of the dactyl club. But the most interesting part is the crack-proof “impact region” which has a protective role. This region is a layer of calcium phosphate which coats the chitin layer.

And the calcium-laden fibers are placed in a herringbone structure which gives the entire structure increased stiffness in the periodic area. The structure helps the animal inflict more damage to the prey while it also shields it from cracks and damages, scientists explained.

Image Source: Flickr

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