Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unusual snail shell could be a model for better armor

19.01.2010
Unique structure helps dissipate energy that would cause weaker shells to fracture

New insights about a tiny snail that lives on the ocean floor could help scientists design better armor for soldiers and vehicles, according to MIT researchers.

A team of materials scientists, led by MIT Associate Professor Christine Ortiz, report that the shell of the so-called "scaly-foot" snail is unlike any other naturally occurring or manmade armor. The study suggests that its unique three-layer structure dissipates energy that would cause weaker shells to fracture.

Copying various aspects of the structure could help scientists design better armor for military use, says Ortiz, who is a member of MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. The new study was partly funded by the Army and the Department of Defense and will appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Jan. 18.

Ortiz' attention was drawn to this interesting gastropod in 2003, when its discovery was first reported. The snail lives in a relatively harsh environment on the floor of the Indian Ocean, near hydrothermal vents that spew hot water. Therefore it is exposed to fluctuations in temperature as well as high acidity, and also faces attack from predators such as crabs and other snail species.

When a crab attacks a snail, it grasps the snail's shell with its claws and squeezes it until it breaks — for days if necessary. The claws generate mechanical energy that eventually fractures the shell, unless it is strong enough to resist.

In the new paper, Ortiz and her colleagues, including MIT Dean of Engineering Subra Suresh, report that the shell of the hot vent gasotropod has several features that help dissipate mechanical energy from a potential penetrating predatory attack. Of particular importance is its tri-layered shell structure, which consists of an outer layer embedded with iron sulfide granules, a thick organic middle layer, and a calcified inner layer.

Most other snail shells have a calcified layer with a thin organic coating on the outside.. In the scaly foot gastropod, simulations suggest that the relatively thick organic middle layer can absorb much energy during a penetrating attack. It may also help to dissipate heat and thermal fluctuations exhibited near hydrothermal vents.

How they did it: Ortiz and her colleagues measured the mechanical properties of the snail shell using a machine called an indenter, which has a diamond tip. By measuring the force applied to the shell, and the shell's resulting displacement, they can calculate its mechanical properties.

Next steps: Ortiz is looking at host of natural exoskeletons in order to extract protective design principles, including chitons, urchins, beetles, and armored fish.

Source: "Protection mechanisms of the iron-plated armor of a deep-sea hydrothermal vent gastropod," Haimin Yao et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, week of Jan. 18, 2010.

Funding: National Science Foundation, Singapore-MIT Alliance, U.S. Army through the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Raytheon, and the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship Program.

Jen Hirsch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics
25.04.2017 | University of Delaware

nachricht Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging
24.04.2017 | Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH)

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory

26.04.2017 | Life Sciences

New survey hints at exotic origin for the Cold Spot

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA examines newly formed Tropical Depression 3W in 3-D

26.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>