SINGAPORE: The mantis shrimp may look like a lobster, but one weapon it has sets it apart from its cousins.
Its claw is capable of unleashing a force of more than 50 kilogrammes, which is a hundred times its own weight.
And researchers at the Nanyang Technological University are on their way to finding out the secret behind this weapon.
They have generally divided it into three components — a common bone material found in humans, calcium carbonate which is commonly found in shell fish and chitin, which is a natural polymer fibre that resembles cellulose in plants.
Assistant Professor Ali Miserez, who is from the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, said: "There is a combination of factors but mostly, it’s the fact that you have a building block which is arranged together in a very specific manner. If you take each individual building block, it is not that impressive actually. What makes it very unique is how the blocks, the minerals and the natural polymer are arranged together and form the entire structure."
This unique structure allows the mantis shrimp to smash its prey without damaging its own claw.
The next step is to better understand how the components can be put together so that the material can be replicated in the lab.
Asst Prof Miserez said: "We can use the exact same component... and try to reorganise it at the nanoscale. The other thing is we can actually use the concept and design that we see in the structure so that we can have different materials and try to arrange them in the same way that we see in these natural materials."
It may take five to 10 years before the structure of the mantis shrimp club can be replicated but Asst Prof Miserez believes there are many potential biomedical uses for such a tough material.
"If we can fully mimic this, we can make new implants that don’t suffer wear and damage. For instance, an artificial hip will wear off over time. With this system, we could prevent abrasion. That will be a huge breakthrough because this is a big problem with biomedical and orthopaedic implants."
He added the material may potentially be used to make bullet—proof vests or even aircraft components.
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