Researchers from the University of Durham in the UK and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany claim they have developed the world’s first non-cutting material, which is only 15% denser than steel, which they say can produce indestructible bicycle locks and lightweight armor. The material, named Proteus, uses ceramic spheres in honeycomb-like aluminum structures to thwart cutting of tools such as angle grinders and drills by producing destructive vibrations and blunting any cutting tools used for them. The researchers created Proteus by using grapefruit’s tough cell skin and molluscs’ hard, fracture-resistant stone shells.
The angle grinder or drill will cut through the outer layer of the Proteus plate, but once the embedded ceramic sphere is reached, the fun begins, the vibration dulls the sharp edges of the tool, and then the tiny particles of ceramic dust begin to fill the gaps in the metal matrix. These cause it to become harder, because of the interatomic force between ceramic particles, the faster you grind or drill holes, the more powerful and energy the disc or drill bit is re-acting on itself, and it is weakened and destroyed by your own attack.
This material is equally effective for high-pressure water jet cutters, as the spherical shape of ceramic blocks tends to widen the water jet, greatly slowing its cutting speed. CT scans of Proteus materialshow the honeycomb aluminum structure encased in ceramic spheres. In essence, the researchers say, cutting our material is like cutting a jelly filled with chunks. If you pass through the jelly, you will hit a block, and the material will vibrate in such a way that it destroys the cutting disc or drill bit.
The ceramics embedded in this flexible material are also made up of very small particles that harden and resist the angle grinder or drill bit when you are cutting at high speeds, just as sandbags resist and block bullets at high speeds. This material may have many useful and exciting applications in the security and safety industry. In fact, as of now, we do not know that any other non-cutting materials exist. “
In addition to bicycle locks and lightweight armor, the team believes Proteus has potential on the protective equipment of people who use cutting tools. It is currently patenting and the research team is looking to work with manufacturers to bring it to market.