Soldiers have worn armor since the Mycenaean Era (~1400 B.C.) Since then, technology advances have replaced the rigid armor plates of yore with more flexible armor made from woven fibers.
Now sea sponges are inspiring the next evolution in personal body armor design. It turns out that sea sponges are flexible, yet still resistant to attack from predators. This is because their primary “skeletal” material is small, interlocking structures called spicules. These spicules are hard, lightweight and flexible enough to allow the sea sponge to bend to such extremes that they’re nearly impossible to pierce.
Now scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research are working on creating personal body armor the mimics this structural feature of sea sponges.
To create man-made spicules, researchers blended together a mixture of calcite with a sponge protein, silicatein-α. In this solution calcite was used to create a “nanobrick” structure that was bound together by the elastic sponge protein.
When pressure was applied to man-made spicules scientists found that it behaved much like its organic counterpart, however, there was one difference; it was 10 times more flexible.
These researchers believe that one day a material similar to the one they’ve create could be used to create more effective, lightweight and flexible body armor.
Watch a Video about Creating the New Material:
Images and Video of Wikipedia and Uni Mainz