Science Behind the News: Bio-Inspired Materials

Air Date: 02/22/2013
Source:
NBC Learn
Creator:
Anne Thompson
Air/Publish Date:
02/22/2013
Event Date:
02/22/2013
Resource Type:
Science Explainer
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
2013
Clip Length:
00:04:14

In the search for the next groundbreaking tough material, scientists like David Kisalus from the University of California, Riverside are looking to nature for inspiration, including under the sea where one little crustacean packs a walloping punch - the peacock mantis shrimp. "Science Behind the News” is produced in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Science Behind the News - Bio-Inspired Materials

ANNE THOMPSON, reporting:

On the road, in the air and especially on the battlefield, engineers need materials that are lightweight, strong, and durable. In the search for the next groundbreaking tough material, scientists are looking to nature for inspiration, including under the sea where one little crustacean packs a walloping punch - the peacock mantis shrimp.

DAVID KISAILUS (UC, Riverside): Fisherman call them thumb splitters for a reason, because they can actually break your finger if you put your hand in there.

THOMPSON: David Kisailus, an NSF-funded assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California-Riverside, first heard about the peacock mantis shrimp from one of his students. What fascinated Kisailus is the creature's dactyl club, a tiny appendage that it uses to smash through the shells of its prey with the force of a .22-caliber bullet.

KISAILUS: Oh! Did you get that? She cracked it. This crustacean, it's a crustacean not a shrimp, can actually smash with 200 pounds of force and it's only four inches long. And, you know, as a material scientist and chemical engineer, of course I’m curious to know what is this fist made of?

THOMPSON: The club can sustain up to 50,000 blows before it molts and generates a new one.  To understand the club's ability to deliver a powerful blow, yet tolerate the force of repeated impacts without cracking, Kisailus and his team examined a cross-section of the club using a scanning electron microscope to find out what it was composed of and how it was arranged.  What they discovered was a unique type of composite material with a distinct structure.

KISAILUS: Having something that's hard and though is actually very difficult to achieve in an engineering sense, and yet biology can do this based on architecting these multi-sectional composites.

THOMPOSN: The club is made up of three regions. The outermost region is called the impact region which is composed of calcium-phosphate, a mineral also found in human bone, with crystals arranged perpendicular to the surface it strikes.

KISAILUS: When the club impacts its prey, the stress from that impact is distributed evenly across the club and it doesn’t fracture.

THOMPSON: Behind the impact region is the periodic region, which has a spiral-like structure made up of different fibers called a helicoid.

KISAILUS: A helicoid, all that is are fibers that are in one layer and then there is another layer of fibers that’s stacked on top of that at a certain angle, and another layer on top that's also off set by another angle and continues to basically be stacked on top of each other until they go around.

THOMPSON: The arrangement of these fibers offers immense energy absorption as the club strikes its prey. The third region, called the striated region, is composed of fibers that wrap around the entire club to keep it compressed, similar to how a boxer wraps his fists with tape.

KISAILUS: The mantis shrimp has managed to evolve in a way to wrap these fibers around its own fists, so it itself won't fail.

THOMPSON: Kisailus is studying the multi-sectional structure of the club in the hopes of producing a new material that could one day be used for stronger, lighter body armor for soldiers. His lab, which has tanks full of remarkable sea life, is an example of a field of study called biomimetics, which looks at biological structures such as this California red abalone shell as a model for constructing improved man-made materials.

KISAILUS: Our goal is to understand biology, specifically bio-materials, how they're made, how they're architected, and use the strategies done by biology or achieved by biology to make new engineering materials.

THOMPSON: By looking to nature and the impressive wallop of this tiny crustacean, Kasailus hopes to have a big impact on soldiers answering the call of duty.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Learning Management Systems please log in to your institution's Learning Management System web site and click "Browse NBC Learn".
For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!
Close NBC Learn

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

Videos on this page are not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on the footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

INTERNATIONAL VISITORS

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games videos are only available to visitors inside the United States due to licensing restrictions on the Olympics footage used in the videos.

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games is not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on on Olympic footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Blackboard™ please log in to your institution's Blackboard™ web site and click "Browse NBC Learn"

Close NBC Learn

If you have received a new user registration code from your institution, click your product below and use the "Register now" link to sign up for a personal account.

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!