Sea Shell Armor – Improving Nature

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Turtle and seashells and antlers. What do they have in common? They’re all durable biomaterials that are sources of inspiration to scientists. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Benjamin Bruet is a graduate student at MIT’s Department of Material Research and Engineering. He’s been studying different forms of natural protection hoping to improve on nature’s design.

“We are trying to create new materials. The thing with biomaterials is that we know they work. They’re the result of millions of years of evolution. And those materials are used everyday by animals to protect themselves against predators.”

Researchers are looking at sea shells as a model for lightweight body armor. By replacing the relatively weak material that snails use to build their shells with, scientists may be able to create something even more durable.

“Hopefully, it will be much better because seashells are using calcium carbonate which mechanical wise is not outstanding. So, let’s say, I’m just dreaming, but if we could replace calcium carbonate with aluminum, for example. Aluminum being an amazing material. It has amazing mechanical properties. So if we were able to use aluminum instead of calcium carbonate, well then, you could end up with a material that potentially would have unmatched mechanical properties in terms of toughness, strength, impact resistance. But, the thing is that the design of these small molecular tools that assemble everything at the molecular level has taken millions of years. And they’re incredibly complex molecules.”

Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Sea Shell Armor - Improving Nature

Researchers hope to learn how to build better materials by looking at what some animals use to defend themselves every day - shells!
Air Date:09/29/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

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Turtle and seashells and antlers. What do they have in common? They’re all durable biomaterials that are sources of inspiration to scientists. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Benjamin Bruet is a graduate student at MIT’s Department of Material Research and Engineering. He’s been studying different forms of natural protection hoping to improve on nature’s design.

“We are trying to create new materials. The thing with biomaterials is that we know they work. They’re the result of millions of years of evolution. And those materials are used everyday by animals to protect themselves against predators.”

Researchers are looking at sea shells as a model for lightweight body armor. By replacing the relatively weak material that snails use to build their shells with, scientists may be able to create something even more durable.

“Hopefully, it will be much better because seashells are using calcium carbonate which mechanical wise is not outstanding. So, let’s say, I’m just dreaming, but if we could replace calcium carbonate with aluminum, for example. Aluminum being an amazing material. It has amazing mechanical properties. So if we were able to use aluminum instead of calcium carbonate, well then, you could end up with a material that potentially would have unmatched mechanical properties in terms of toughness, strength, impact resistance. But, the thing is that the design of these small molecular tools that assemble everything at the molecular level has taken millions of years. And they’re incredibly complex molecules.”

Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

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