Media reported that in the case of body armor, a trade-off is often required – it can be highly impact-resistant or flexible, but not both. However, this may change due to the emergence of experimental new materials inspired by molluscs.
Typically, the shell of a mollusc is either a rigid piece or two articulations. The oval shell of the stone python is different, it consists of eight overlapping shell plates, at the bottom by a ring “belt” around. The band consists of small, hard, overlapping scales, which are attached to a softer tissue below.
This arrangement in stone is very effective. When external forces are applied to it, they converge and lock together to form a hard barrier. However, when the creature tries to match its body to the contours of the rock it clings to, the shell plates and scales slide back and forth to each other, keeping the shell flexible.
Recently, an international team of scientists began to replicate the feature, eventually producing materials that are flexible and impact-resistant. It consists of overlapping 3D-printed rigid “scales” mounted on flexible substrates. In laboratory tests, the scales were found to form a strong barrier when exposed to external mechanical forces, while the substrate moved with the substrate when it was bent. It is worth noting that the smaller the scales, the greater the flexibility, the lower the impact resistance.
“We wanted to integrate flexibility and protection, which is hard to do with synthetic systems,” said Li Ling, an associate professor at Virginia Tech. We will continue our research to explore the design space outside the original biological model system and test it under different load conditions. “
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, California State University Fulton and the Max Planck Colloid and Interface Institute in Germany also participated in the study. The paper on the study was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.