Materials

Proteus becomes the world's first manufactured non-cuttable material

Proteus becomes the world's fi...
That's as far as an angle grinder made it through this Proteus non-cuttable bar
That's as far as an angle grinder made it through this Proteus non-cuttable bar
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That's as far as an angle grinder made it through this Proteus non-cuttable bar
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That's as far as an angle grinder made it through this Proteus non-cuttable bar
CT scan of the Proteus material showing the cellular aluminium structure wrapped around ceramic spheres. Attempted angle grinder cuts show up on the left
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CT scan of the Proteus material showing the cellular aluminium structure wrapped around ceramic spheres. Attempted angle grinder cuts show up on the left

Researchers from the UK's Durham University and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute claim they've come up with the world's first manufactured non-cuttable material, just 15 percent the density of steel, which they say could make for indestructible bike locks and lightweight armor.

The material, named Proteus, uses ceramic spheres in a cellular aluminum structure to foil angle grinders, drills and the like by creating destructive vibrations that blunt any cutting tools used against it. The researchers took inspiration from the tough, cellular skin of grapefruit and the hard, fracture-resistant aragonite shells of molluscs in their creation of the Proteus design.

An angle grinder or drill bit will cut through the outer layer of a Proteus plate, but once it reaches the embedded ceramic spheres, the fun begins with vibrations that blunt the tool's sharp edges, and then fine particles of ceramic dust begin filling up gaps in the matrix-like structure of the metal. These cause it to become even harder the faster you grind or drill "due to interatomic forces between the ceramic grains," and "the force and energy of the disc or the drill is turned back on itself, and it is weakened and destroyed by its own attack."

The material is equally effective against high pressure water jet cutters – not that many bike thieves are hauling those around – since the spherical shape of the ceramic chunks tends to widen out the water jet, significantly slowing down its cutting speed.

CT scan of the Proteus material showing the cellular aluminium structure wrapped around ceramic spheres. Attempted angle grinder cuts show up on the left
CT scan of the Proteus material showing the cellular aluminium structure wrapped around ceramic spheres. Attempted angle grinder cuts show up on the left

"Essentially cutting our material is like cutting through a jelly filled with nuggets" said lead author Stefan Szyniszewski, Assistant Professor of Applied Mechanics, in Durham's Department of Engineering. "If you get through the jelly you hit the nuggets 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 of very fine particles which stiffen and resist the angle grinder or drill when you’re cutting at speed in the same way that a sandbag would resist and stop a bullet at high speed. This material could have lots of useful and exciting applications in the security and safety industries. In fact, we are not aware of any other manufactured non-cuttable material in existence as of now."

As well as bike locks and lightweight armor, the team feels Proteus has potential in protective equipment for people using cutting tools. It's currently patent pending, and the research team is looking to partner with manufacturers to bring it onto the market.

The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports. Check out an attempted angle grinder attack in the video below.

Angle grinder attack on non-cuttable, lightweight Proteus material

Source: Durham University

49 comments
Spud Murphy
Bolt cutters?
Kevon Lindenberg
I'm sure this isn't meant for bolt cutters. It sure ate that grinder disc though.
paul314
If it's alumimum, can you just bend it or go through with a cold chisel? It sounds as if the speed of the attempted cutting is a crucial ingredient in the resistance.
Bodger
So many possibilities to be tested: Laser? Acid? Cryosoak and shatter? Plasma cutter? Plain ole' oy-acetylene torch? Hydraulic bend-n-break? Thermite reaction? It absolutely must be deformable/shapeable unless it grew into the form shown all on its own.
alexD
A 7 cm thick bar like that outta discourage anyone from trying to cut, saw, water cut, laser, break them away..... make one the usual thickness 1/4 inch... heck, make it 1/2 inch and try again...
oldpistachio
Court-ordered ankle bracelets
Vince Negro
Like change the disk,,,
Lee Bell
I'm sorry but that was a very unconvincing demo shown. Using a plate with a steel cover was a bit lame to begin with. Show what it does on a round piece of stock the average size of a bike lock or chain. It went at least 1/2" into the plate and very few bike locks are going to be any thicker than that. A thief isn't going to just hold the grinder in one spot either. they would work around the outside circumference to cut it. It did slow the grinder down a bit though so It does have some possibilities. It would slow down amateur thieves but a profession would still steal the bike. It would just take a minute or so longer.
Worzel
Hard materials for locks have already been beaten!
Just use liquid nitrogen spray, and then wack it with a hammer. Any hard material just shatters.
sgdeluxedoc
I think its most important use is going to be developing armor against micrometeorites and other small objects in space.. The original description in 1947 by Jesse Marcel was a "flexible, light and shiny material that couldn't be cut" even by the strongest metal shears he had available.
Certainly, space debris and micro meteorites Are one of the biggest hazards that will be encountered in space flight and in orbital platforms, and keeping our satellites safe is also an issue. This material is a great step in that area...