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Sea Snail Shells Have Inspired Scientists To "Unbreakable" Material

Sea Snail Shells Have Inspired Scientists To "Unbreakable" Material

Physicists have created a ceramic material that is very resistant to cutting with different tools. Its structure is similar to the arrangement of sea snail shells and the skin of grapefruits. A description of the development was published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports.

"In its structure, our material is similar to jelly, which is filled with many solid pieces. If you try to cut it with a circular saw or drill it with a drill, both of these tools will pass through the jelly and sooner or later come across pieces. When this happens, the entire material will begin to vibrate in such a way that these vibrations will destroy the drill or saw disc," said one of the authors of the study, Associate Professor at Durham University (UK) Stefan Shiniszewski.

In recent years, physicists, chemists, and engineers have been actively studying how the individual organs and body parts of many animals and plants are arranged, borrowing the inventions of evolution to create man-made technologies. For example, physicists in the United States have created very sharp medical needles and sticky band-AIDS by studying the structure of porcupine needles and the nipples of parasitic worms.

Other researchers, after studying the composition of secretions produced by land slugs and marine mussels, have created two different types of glue that can work even underwater and allow you to glue together arteries and damaged heart tissue. Engineers also develop coatings that practically do not reflect light, inspired by the nanostructures that cover the feathers of birds of Paradise.

"Biosecurity" for the safe

Shiniszewski and his colleagues were interested in another invention of nature – peel grapefruit and shells of sea snails. The fruit of this citrus plant can withstand falls from a height of ten meters, and the armor of snails was about three thousand times stronger than the crystals of aragonite – a natural mineral similar in composition to the shells of shellfish.

Both skins and shells, as scientists note, are complex multi-layered materials that are similar in structure to a mosaic of relatively soft and hard layers and elements. After studying their location, composition, and physical properties, British and German scientists created a similar material, which they named Proteus after an ancient Greek God who could take any shape.

Proteus consists of many small ceramic spheres with a diameter of 1.3 cm, which are tightly packed in a special pattern. The gaps between them are filled with a relatively soft foam-like filler made of aluminum, which, when applied to the force, breaks up into many small dust particles.

As experiments have shown, if you try to cut or drill the Proteus, the disks of the saw or drill almost immediately fail. The fact is that the material provokes side vibrations inside their cutting edges, which is why they quickly collapse. In particular, a block of this material with a thickness of 4 cm in just a minute rendered the disc of the grinder unusable.

Another advantage of this material, as noted by physicists, is that it is about seven times lighter than steel and, at the same time, much stronger than it. As scientists suggest, plates and inserts from Proteus can be used both in the manufacture of safes and in the creation of heavy-duty soles for shoes and inserts for specialized clothing that would protect it from wear.

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