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 Melting solid below the freezing point
23.01.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk
20.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>