Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Per Terram Per Mare

Soldiers of the future may be wearing body armour inspired by the tough scaly skin of a primitive fish. US Army-funded engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are studying the protective qualities of fish scales to help develop lighter, more flexible armour for use on the battlefield. Though war may be a human phenomenon, the need for armour is almost universal. But some species make it better than others, which is why scientists decided to look at the interaction of different layers in the scales of Polypterus senegalus, otherwise known as the gray bichir. The fish is particularly well-armored and can repel biting attacks, but is flexible enough to swim.
According to the MIT team: “Knowledge of the structure–property–function relationships of dermal scales of armoured fish could enable pathways to improved bioinspired human body armour, and may provide clues to the evolutionary origins of mineralized tissues” (whatever that means).
This isn't the first attempt to apply biologically inspired materials and principles to modern warfare—for instance the Pentagon's research wing has spent years working on a climbing device that would mimic the arcane cohesive properties of gecko footpads. The fish-armor study also falls into the expanding field of biomimetics which includes research into robots that behave like insects or even bacteria.
Link> Scotsman: Who dares swims? Fish armour could provide better protection