Looks like some very interesting potential for composites use for heavy duty applications. I'm curious as to how the piranha-proof material holds up to things like bombs or bullets--more likely scenarios for when body armor is used than to protect against sharp teeth or knives.
What I really would like is to be a fly on the wall of the testing facility when they some day put the manmade composite material to the test using live piranhas instead of just their teeth. It could get ugly!
Much soft body armor is good against softer bullets like lead from a handgun, but not so good against jacketed bullets, high-speed rifle bullets, teflon coated bullets, sharp fragment shrapnel, skinny pointed knives, and ice picks.
It sounds like this research of nature could indicate a refinement of the "ceramic scale type body armor" that could do better against these types of hazards. Cool.
David12345, I was watching a rerun last night of "Doomsday Preppers," where they were shooting wood 2x4s at 500 mph at a couple of doors to see if they could be breached. An the 2x4 penetrated an 8,000-lb, FEMA-compliant door. I wonder how a scaled type solution might work instead? Also interesting are the ceramic tiles they use beneath the armor on an Abrams tank, so when the shell penetrates the first metal coating it hits, the impact is dissipated by the ceramics before it can cut thru the final layer of metal.
What sort of doomsday were the "Doomsday Preppers" trying to prepare for? Tornados of current F0 to F3 variety are talking winds of up to 206 miles per hour (mph) covers 99% of all tornados. The F4 and F5 tornados are rare but with winds 207 to 318 mph. I don't believe F6 tornados (with winds 319 to 379 mph) have ever been documented thus far.
The 500 mph board would need to be above F6, or from a weapon (a 2x4 cannon?). I would think scaled or rigid, the best defence would be layers of hard material separated by softer absorbing layers. Various types of layering would need to be explored depending upon the projectile being protected against. I understand some projectiles are very complex with splitting jeckets, secondary explosives, titanium darts, molten plasma being generated, etc.
Alternatively, "active armor" layers like classified military counter-explosive armor would probably be the ticket, but I am not an expert on such things.
Well, I don't mean this in a bad way, but they're into somewhat unrealistic apocalyptic scenarios, like a total breakdown of government and social structure, failure of the worldwide economic system, and/or cataclysmic natural disasters. Basically, stuff that, no matter how much you prep, you're never prepped enough. (Or, when you emerge from your underground bunker, there's nothing left around you except radiation. Sorta like those "On The Beach" post-nuke novels of the late 1950s, earli 1960s.) Interesting show nevertheless; in spots though...watching it for long periods is a bit much. I can only take so many shots of food in Mason jars. Here's the link, but it crashed my browser: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/doomsday-preppers/
Ohhh, I get it. Like how do you build your storm shelter to withstand a direct hit from a nuclear bomb and what supplies to you need to protect yourself from radiation, chemicals, and biological weapons for generations. until it is safe to come out and rebuild the world.
Interesting stuff. Sort of like the cold war concerns . . . updated.
I had a brother in law that was formerly in the military to protect the troops from biological weapons. His attitude was that, now as a civilian, if there was a major biological or chemical weapon like that released on the public he would not use plastic sheets or duct tape for his house. He said he would walk outside and breathe deeply; so that, he would would expire quickly with a minimum of suffering. His opinion was that a private person's counter-efforts would not save them, just have them die more slowly and painfully. Morbid, but probably correct.
Sounds like the only solution is to keep the event from happening or be far enough away from the action . . . perhaps on a moon base?
Re the moon base, notwithstanding the derision Newt Gingrich got for suggesting it, I would really like to see a return to manned space program. That was a seeder for a lot of technology as well as a lot of tech jobs. And it's intrinsically important stuff, to us engineers, anyway. As for the preppers stuff, yeah, you got it right.
Alex, Do you know if those FEMA-compliant doors were solid wood, or made from plywood by any chance? The reason I ask is because plywood was used as a metaphor for the way the collagen fibers are stacked in the fish scale architecture. I've also seen it used as a metaphor in other composite architectures I've written about.
Current military body armor uses a kevlar layer and a ceramic plate to provide protection against high powered rifle bullets. The kevlar is a woven fabric built up in layers at angles. The ceramic plate is added to provide protection from rifle bullets. Seems like that part of the armor is already being used. The overlapping scale idea is interesting. This might hold promise for lighter, stronger armor.
naperlou, thanks for the info on body armor. That basic structure sounds quite similar to the Arapaima scale architecture, although not including the fish scales' overlap. Lighter, stronger armor is definitely a target app for these experiments.
Dr. Meyer's group has been doing all kinds of fascinating work on the mechanics of natural materials for the past several years. Dr. Meyers is known for an excellent textbook which he co-wrote with Dr. Krishan Chawla called Mechanical Behavior of Materials(originally titled Mechanical Metallurgy). Both he and Dr. Chawla are giants in the materials field. Dr. Chawla is known for his work on composites, especially ceramic-matrix composites.
It wasn't immediately obvious to me just how big this fish is (300 pounds), or how big its scales are (4 - 6 inches in diameter). Not exactly your average fish!
Understanding how nature arranges hard and soft materials to create tough structures can provide insights which can have applications in all sorts of fields, not just body armor.
Thanks, Dave, for the author info and that book link. Meyers has indeed done several different biomimicry architecture projects. I ran across his work on abalone structure when I wrote the abalone-architecture story:
You are so right. The (if you will pardon the crude expression) machine we call nature is amazing and quite often has the most efficient process for doing what needs to be done. If you subscribe to the theroy of an original creator, look at the mechanics of people and insects how all the joints work.
I am sure that the first engineer to try and create an artifical knee or hip found that it is not as easy as it looks. The human knee when climbing stairs can be exposed to stress of up to five times the persons weight, and for most of us keep doing that for a very long time. But I digress.
Where applicable we should mimic nature as much as possible. Like the research into creating materials from spider web or silk material. Which is much stronger than the materials we are trying to replace.
In some ways, we look to nature because -- well, where else are you going to look. In recent years, however, I've seen there is a more deliberate look to nature for innovation. This is even true in the pharma industry. They're looking to nature for medicinal drugs. For one thing, drugs occurring in nature don't have to go through the same multi-year qualification process.
You're right, Rob. Beth has pointed out that biomimicry is very prevalent these days in several technology design areas. Materials seems like an obvious place to get inspiration from nature, since there are so many successful ones that have been "invented" which are there for the observing.
Rob, you have voiced what I thought as soon as I started reading the article. Here we go again trying to recreate and improve on what nature has already created. Not really a bad idea when it comes right down to it.
I agree Tool-maker. I saw a wonderful documentary some years ago that showed how some of our most common engineering solutions involved direct borrowing from nature's designs. A recent article in the The Guardian also covers the subject:
Yes, Well-said Rob. Nature continues to offer us a myriad of new solution ideas. This topic also reminds me of the recent break-throughs in synthetic spider silk that I have been seeing in articles recently.
I watched the video from your link, Ann. I was hoping to see an actual piranha try to bite down on the scales, but it's just a piranha tooth, not an entire piranha. If they put the piranha vs. arapaima matchup on the television show, River Monsters, they'd probably get some good ratings. I'd watch.
Chuck, sorry to disappoint you. It would have been a lot more dramatic, that's for sure. I'd guess that the reason a real piranha was not used in the experiment was most likely because of the danger and hassle involved with handling a real piranha. I wouldn't want to tangle with one of those, even if sedated.
I think Pete is right: I doubt if a live show aired in the US could show the Arapaima getting attacked by a piranha, since it would violate cruelty to animals laws. That's probably one reason the researchers used a press with a piranha tooth "attacking" an Arapaima scale with muscle tissue simulated by rubber. Let alone the fact that either researchers or the people putting on River Monsters would have to wrestle both a piranha and a 300-lb Arapaima. But I haven't watched the show, so maybe that's all in a day's work for them.
Pete, I think the difference is between whether animals are attacking each other under their own volition, i.e., in nature, or people are instigating their attacks on each other, i.e., two fish on a research lab, or two cocks or dogs fighting in a pit.
I wonder whether the corrugation of the scale surface is a factor for its puncture resistance, aside from helping to keep the scale surface flexible. A piranha tooth (or knife, or anything sharp) penetrates by concentrating force on a small area. When you try to puncture a flexible material with a hard, corrugated surface, the sharp edge slides into the corrugation troughs. Maybe the hard surface cracks there. Then the material bends, causing adjacent corrugation ridges to clamp onto the sharp object, increasing the area in contact and effectively blunting the sharp edge. The tooth may find it harder to cut after penetrating the hard outer layer than before penetration.
That is a good analysis of what is likely to happen. I find it fastenating that there is another fish that can live with the Piranha. Piranha fish eat anything in site.
The item I find interesting is that the fibers are stacked criss-cross and yet the skin stays flexible enough to let the fish swim. I am sure that at this point the people that make bulistic resistant garments are starting to research how this will help them make better products. (I mention this because one of the local law enforcement agenicies had a problem with some of their balistic armor).
Joel, it's actually both. The scales' flexibility is important for multiple reasons, according to the original study, which stated that the corrugated surface helps enable the flexibility of the outer layer of scales, which in turn leads to the difficulty of penetration by piranha teeth.
I agree with "grand". It is an inspiring development. Nature has provided an interesting template for us to follow.
To me, the application that comes to mind for this material technology is a better interfacial material for prosthetics. Nature has provided some insight on how to stack and orient the right layers to make an effective transition from hard shell to soft tissue. I know many people who have had limbs ravaged by diabetes. Having a gentle but firm transition from soft surface to hard interface point could cause fewer sores and lesions and add up to a better quality of life despite their flesh's weakened condition. This may also apply to internal implants as well.
This is a good direction to pursue. The Army can benefit two-fold from having better armor and improved medical devices to help soldier and citizen alike.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
The US Congress has extended an important tax credit for solar energy, a move that’s good news for future investments in this type of alternative energy and for many stakeholders in the solar industry.
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