June 26 - The tiny Peacock Mantis Shrimp knows how to throw a punch. It is so powerful in fact, that a team of researchers in California have studied the tropical crustacean's properties in hopes of creating more durable and lighter military body armor. Sharon Reich reports.
STORY: That's the sound of the Peacock Mantis Shrimp attacking its prey. When this shrimp strikes with its elbow-like clubs it unleashes a blow equivalent to the force of 200 pounds. What is more fascinating.... Despite the powerful force, the mantis shrimp's orange clubs never crack. University of California researcher David Kisaillis and his team set out to discover how the club could repeatedly withstand severe pounding, without suffering too much damage. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID KISAILIS, CHEMICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR, UC RIVERSIDE, SAYING: "What we were interested in was how can it strike with such a large force, create cavitation and survive that cavitation, and do it so many times without itself failing. So we wanted to uncover what the materials were inside the club and how they were architected." Upon analyzing the club,s the researchers discovered they are comprised of specialized regions that work together to create a structure tougher than most engineered ceramics. These regions are made up of a unique combination of complex minerals and fibers that allow the clubs to deliver a powerful impact while acting as a highly efficient shock absorber. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID KISAILIS, CHEMICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR, UC RIVERSIDE, SAYING: "People in the composite and materials industry have been developing materials that are either stiff or they're tough, and that's inversely related. Here we have a club that's designed its composite structure to have both stiff and tough regions in that, which is kind of the Holy Grail in the materials world." Based on their findings, the team is developing lightweight materials that mimic the claw's impact resistant properties. Garret Milliorn, a researcher on the project, says the team hopes to ultimately develop the next generation of bullet proof, ultra-lightweight body armor. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GARRETT MILLIRON, CHEMICAL ENGINEER, UC RIVERSIDE, SAYING: "This was a 28 mm copper jacketed bullet, you can see it was actually embedded, but a 45 bullet that is a very high caliber, lots of energy, is actually completely blunted and it fell off the composite." The team plan to continue refining their prototypes. They say they've learned one lesson so far - the mighty mantis ….is no shrimp. Sharon Reich, Reuters