UC Riverside and Purdue University researchers have drawn inspiration from the mantis shrimp’s ‘Telson’ or tail shield to create lightweight, impact-resistant materials.
This research study was led by UC Riverside professor David Kisailus and Purdue professor Pablo Zavattieri.
The telson is a multiscale structure with ridges on the outside and a structure shaped like a spiral staircase on the inside.
Such properties once inculcated into the new materials could lead to impact-absorbing helmets, cars, sports and aerospace applications.
A paper by Duke University’s Sheila Patek about the telson’s ability to absorb energy, is what inspired Kisailus to investigate the role multiscale architectural features have on impact resistance.
Kisailus and his team studied both the large-scale architecture as well as the internal structure of the telson and subjected it to mechanical testing.
They found a helicoidal structure within this specialized shield that prevents cracks from growing and ultimately dissipates significant amounts of energy from strikes to avoid catastrophic failure.
The helicoidal – a twisted plywood-like structure – is similar to one the researchers previously identified in the smasher mantis shrimp’s dactyl club that allows it to crack clamshells without breaking itself.
“For over a decade, we have been studying the dactyl club of the smashing type of mantis shrimp. We realized that if these organisms were striking each other with such incredible forces, the telson must be architected in such a way to act like the perfect shield,” opined Kisailus.
“We found that not only did the telson of the smasher contain the helicoid microstructure, but there were significantly more layers in the smashing type than the spearing type.”
Zavattieri adds that, “Having access to one the most efficient materials architectures, such as the helicoid, in conjunction with a clever geometry, makes this another winner solution found by nature.”
The researchers also revealed that the function of the smashing mantis’ highly curved ridges called ‘Carinae,’ also leads to both stiffening or softening structural behavior.
Kisailus and his team have already begun incorporating the findings into highly impact-resistant materials for use in helmets and other structural objects.
Image and content: Roy Caldwell-UC Berkeley/UC Riverside