Crab-Crushing Mantis Shrimp Study Could Lead to Human Body Armor

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June 8 2012 5:19 PM

Crab-Crushing Mantis Shrimp Study Could Lead to Human Body Armor

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A shrimp mantis; the ocean dwellers are being studied at the molecular level because engineers believe they could help in designing lighter and stronger body armor.

Krishnan Vasuvedan

You won't be calling a guy a shrimp when he's wearing super strong mantis armor. 

Using electron microscopes, engineers have been studying how the mantis shrimp's strong hammer-like claws work at the molecular level, and have found that unlike many man-made materials, they are both stiff and tough.

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The claws, which are used to smash mollusks and crabs, deliver blow after blow with the acceleration of a 0.22-caliber bullet without breaking or cracking. Scientists think that these thumb-splitters, as fishermen call them, might be able to help lead to super lightweight body armor and other biology-mimicking materials.

Humans trying to learn about armor and weaponry from powerful crustaceans? We’ve heard this somewhere before

Video by Krishnan Vasuvedan.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.