MM Blog: Shrimp-Inspired, High-Strength Materials

A look at how a marine crustacean leads scientists to build stronger composite materials.

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When people think of the organisms most likely to inspire new manufacturing materials, shrimp probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Researchers from the University of California-Riverside and Purdue University, however, say they're on the verge of next-generation, ultra-strong materials due to years of work with the mantis shrimp.

One variety of the mantis shrimp uses a fist-like appendage called a dactyl club to smash the shells of unsuspecting nearby crabs or snails.Scientists found that the shrimp’s club includes crystalline calcium phosphate — the mineral found in human bone — in a herringbone structure that's never been seen before in nature. The pattern protects the club from fractures while allowing the shrimp to transfer additional momentum into its strikes. Scientists said incorporating that structure using conventional polymers or carbon fiber produced new composites that could create stronger airplanes, vehicles and body armor.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

What other industries could benefit from stronger advanced materials?Could other manufacturing solutions also remain hidden in nature?

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