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Cimwch's hard shadow could inspire the next generation of very flexible body weapons



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Lobsters and other crests are covered in a thick carapace that is broadcast against predators and general danger. But if you've ever turned a lobster on your back, you may have noticed how the tail's bottom has been covered in parts associated with a membrane. According to MIT researchers, this membrane is surprisingly difficult, enabling the lobster to be scrapped against the tire sea without injuring itself. It is also very flexible allowing the tail to move freely, making it a great inspiration for a new type of body weapons, especially for mobile areas such as headbags and knees.

Soft but difficult

Ideas for interesting new research often arise from the most unexpected places. Ming Guo, Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT, once had lobster lunch when he noticed that the belly's transparent membrane was difficult to blow. He was wondering why and soon discovered that no one was absolutely certain.

So, Guo and his colleagues took on themselves to investigate the unusual property of the material. They cut the membrane into very thin slices, all of them went through a series of experiments. Some slices were left in a small towel drying before researchers measure their weight. This analysis showed that around 90% of the lobster membrane was water, making it hydrogel.

Meanwhile, other samples were stored in a saline solution that mimic water found in an ocean environment. These samples were subject to mechanical tests, which extended the membrane directly with controlled forces. The membrane was flexible and easy to add until it was extended to twice its initial length, at that point the material was tougher and tighter and tougher. This was astonishing, seeing how most hydrogel is softened the more you will stretch. Guo thinks this strong behavior allows the lobster to move freely when it has to, in order to enable it to lack and protect itself in times of danger.

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Lobsters are known for scraping against spectacular rocks and sand. When scalpel researchers used to scratch the sheet samples, it was found that it could continue to extend even as far as half halves. A rubber compound with similar properties would break under the same conditions.

Using an electron microscopy, the MIT researchers have swell in the membrane to understand what it has done resiliently. What was found was a structure similar to plywood, with each leaflet containing thousands of layers of kitten fibers. All similarly improved improvement fibers are exactly the same as offsetting a 36-degree angle of the layer of fibers above.

"When you rotate the angle of the fibers, a layer by layer, you have a good strength in every direction," said Guo. "People have been using this structure in dry materials for tolerance of defects, but this is the first time we can see it in natural hydrogel."

An imagination that Guo and colleagues are still trying to answer is how the fibers are led to such a tight architecture. Once they understand the process, researchers are hoping to imitate them to produce synthetic microstructures with similar properties. One application would include flexible body tools, but soft robotics and tissue engineering could find a hydrogel of such an appeal.

With such sophisticated hardware available, it's not surprising that lobsters have been so successful.

"We think the structure of this membrane could be a very important reason why lobsters have been living for more than 100 million years on Earth," said Guo. "Somehow somehow, this breaking tolerance has helped them in evolution."

The findings were published in Acta Materialia.

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