Science

Bullet-fast shrimp club could lead to better body armor, airplanes and more

Bullet-fast shrimp club could ...
A mantis shrimp in one of UCR's tanks
A mantis shrimp in one of UCR's tanks
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A mantis shrimp in one of UCR's tanks
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A mantis shrimp in one of UCR's tanks

For a relatively small critter, the mantis shrimp certainly makes some major waves in the scientific community. The crustacean has served as the inspiration for research into everything from cancer-detecting camera technology to polarized lenses to strong and light composite materials. Adding to the body of knowledge in that last category is research out of the University of California Riverside (UCR) that has unravelled one of the secrets that helps the animal's claw move as fast as a .22 caliber bullet but not suffer any damage.

The secret, the scientists have discovered, lies with a herringbone pattern found in the outer layer of a fist-like appendage called a dactyl club the animal uses to pummel its prey. That club can go from 0 to 50 mph (80 km/h) in just three thousandths of a second, moving so fast that it boils the water in its path and creates a sonic shockwave that can stun or even kill small prey who happen to be having a very unlucky day nearby. At such speed, you'd imagine the club would have to be pretty tough – and it is.

Researchers at UCR had already decoded one part of the appendage responsible for its super strength. It had to do with spiral-shaped structures found at the innermost layers of the club's covering, which act as tiny shock absorbers. Now the researchers have turned their attention to the outer layer of the club – called the impact region – where they discovered the herringbone pattern.

"We knew from previous studies that the impact region allows the mantis shrimp to transfer incredible momentum to its prey while resisting fracture, but it was exciting to reveal through our research that the properties of this highly impact-resistant material are created by the novel herringbone structure," says Nicholas Yaraghi, a graduate student who led the current research, which was published May 30 in the journal Advanced Materials. Yaraghi also says that this is the first time such a pattern has been observed in the natural world.

To test out just how effective the herringbone pattern was, the UCR team worked with Pablo Zavattieri, associate professor of civil engineering at Purdue University who created first computer models and then 3D-printed versions of a material inspired by the design. They found that it was even more effective than the previously-discovered mantis shrimp coils in distributing physical stress and keeping the structure from cracking.

While the structure of the mantis shrimp's dactyl club has already led to the development of some next-gen composites, understanding the herringbone structure overlaid atop the shock-absorbing coils could help scientists develop even stronger materials such as better body armor, stronger aircraft hulls or better football helmets, says a UC Riverside report about the research.

"The smasher mantis shrimp has evolved this exceptionally strong and impact-resistant dactyl club for one primary purpose—to be able to eat," says professor David Kisailus, who's spent the last eight years at UCR uncovering ways the crustacean can inspire material design. "However, the more we learn about this tiny creature and its multi-layered structural designs, the more we realize how much it can help us as we design better planes, cars, sports equipment and armor."

Source: University of California Riverside

3 comments
MintasLanxor
Another reason why we should fight tooth and nail against the extinction of any species on earth. Not only is it good for the preservation of natural diversity but one never know what we might learn from such organisms that can help us in future technologies.
Lbrewer42
Quote: "The smasher mantis shrimp has evolved..." No scientist interested in preserving science would not include the word "Theoretically" before evolved. If a person is willing to know fact instead of going along with modern peer pressure, they will do the homework themselves and find that what is called a proven science is far from being proved. Don't be a puppet. Look into the facts and the suppositions /fudge factors behind what we are fed as being fact. Its just like the human/chimp genome similarity sham. The first genome for a chimp was put together based not only on DNA sequencing techniques available at the time, but also theoretical assumptions using DNA and assuming humans and chips were so much alike. Modern, more advanced DNA sequencing techniques are applied in research and show the original report was not only gravely in error, but exposes the human-like-suppositions, then claimed as factual science. But the media is so very willing to report the fantastic that actual science is being blurred all the time. Welcome to the modern Dark Ages where: 1. the facts are enhanced, 2. the facts are pushed aside to conform to modern peer pressure related ideas, 3. People are ridiculed who cry out for pure science, 4. The ridicule is only stopped when the origins of the peer pressure decide its time to change their minds also. ...very, very sad. Its like this new-ish trend of dinosaurs developing feathers. If we accept the suppositions of radiometric dating methods like C14 dating, archaeopteryx predates these supposed feather bearing dinosaurs. However, archaeopteryx has long been accepted as being nothing but a true bird with teeth. Modern trends ignore that birds were here before the dinosaurs supposedly "developed" feathers. It also ignores the famous fossils from China that were the main source of the modern trend have been proven to be constructions of at least three different organisms...i.e. faked. But since National Geographic, although knowing the nature of the scam, published their famous dinosaur-developing-feathers article... the peer pressure for this non-science is leading us further away from fact.
mhpr262
Gizmag, you neglected to include a link to the Oatmeal comic about mantis shrimps. I am very disappointed.