Ancient Fish Could Hold Clue to Body Armour Breakthrough

31 July 2008 (Last Updated July 31st, 2008 09:33)

MIT Researchers funded by the US Army have reported that the rigid, interlocking scales of a primitive fish, known as the dinosaur eel could provide insights into creating improved body armour for soldiers. The team studying the fish found that its scales where lightweight, flexible and

MIT Researchers funded by the US Army have reported that the rigid, interlocking scales of a primitive fish, known as the dinosaur eel could provide insights into creating improved body armour for soldiers.

The team studying the fish found that its scales where lightweight, flexible and had evolved in a pattern that radiated impact in an outwards circle across a wide area.

Associate Professor of Materials, Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Christine Ortiz, said that this discovery holds great potential as "seashells and armoured fish are made of very weak material, but they are put together with a design that makes them increase in toughness and strength by orders of magnitude".

Such designs hold massive potential for human body armour, which could benefit by combining strong materials with lighter, more flexible design principles. This could be achieved by mimicking the structure of the fish scales using sophisticated synthetic materials.

The researchers are not only looking at fish scales as a potential source of technological breakthrough but to other examples of evolutionary innovation in the natural kingdom, including mother of pearl, geckos and squid.

The MIT researchers are finding that technology has much to learn from nature as our design principles are really only in their infancy compared to those of the natural kingdom, which have been perfected over millions of years of evolution.

Harvard materials scientist Andre Studart said that “scientists are looking at nature as a source of inspiration, mainly because some natural materials exhibit structures and properties that our modern technologies have not yet been able to create”.

This has become all the more practical as modern day technologies allow scientists to study organisms in minute detail and then imitate those designs at a very small scale for use in human technology.

By Daniel Garrun