Via LiveScience.com: Researchers at MIT have found valuable insight into body armor by studying the African fish Polypterus senegalus. A living fossil, the fish is largely unchanged since the Cretaceous period — when its ancestors faced an ocean full of large, toothy predators. In its defense, it developed a bite-resistant “armored” skin, whose scales are built up from layers of different materials.
In a study sponsored by the US Army, the MIT engineers studied how each layer of these scales reacts to stress in a different way, combining to blunt the effect of a biting attack. Using experimental and computational research, the team “reveals the materials design principles” behind this tough old survivor — principles that can inform the design of new kinds of armor.
For more biomimicry in action, check out Janine Benyus’ TEDTalk — where she discusses the many insights we can gain from studying nature in this way.
Above: The armored fish Polypterus senegalus hides insights into new materials — and clever combinations of materials — for human armor. Photo / Donna Coveney.