scientist from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) may be onto an
ocean of discovery because of his research into a little sea creature
called the mantis shrimp.
research is likely to lead to making ceramics—today’s preferred
material for medical implants and military body armour—many times
stronger. These findings were published in last Friday’s Science (“The
Stomatopod Dactyl Club: A Formidable Damage-Tolerant Biological
Hammer”), and focused on the mantis shrimp’s ability to shatter aquarium
glass and crab shells alike.
common creature native to the Indo Pacific, has club-like ‘arms’ which
can strike prey at speeds matching that of a 5.56-mm rifle bullet. Each
impact generates a force exceeding 50 kilograms, which is hundreds of
times the mantis shrimp’s weight.
Professor Ali Miserez, from NTU’s School of Materials Science
Engineering (MSE) and School of Biological Sciences (SBS), collaborated
with Dr James Weaver from Harvard University as well as scientists from
the University of California-Riverside, Purdue University, and
Brookhaven National Laboratory in the United States.
have observed down to the nanoscale the highly unique composite
structure of the mantis shrimp’s club and discovered that it is weaved
together in a unique fashion to create a structure tougher than many
engineered ceramics. This is the first time that the mantis shrimp’s
club is studied in such detail.
highly damage resistant property of the mantis shrimp could be most
useful in medical products such as hip and joint implants, as they
sustain impacts hundreds of times daily during walking and daily
activities,” said Asst Prof Miserez, a recipient of the National
Research Foundation Fellowship, which provides a research grant of up to
S$3 million over five years.
hip implants are a real problem, and cost billions of dollars to the
healthcare systems worldwide. They also cause painful surgeries to
patients when they need to be replaced. Using a nature-inspired
blueprint to design biocompatible implants is actually a ‘shrimple’
is also the problem where the present implants can cause bone loss
during the wear and tear process. Likewise, fine particles from metal
implants have been known to cause toxicity and immune reactions from the
patient’s body, causing pain and even disability in some cases.
a damage-resistant implant which is made out of a bio-compatible bone
material would solve the above problems, as the material exists
naturally in the human body. Asst Prof Miserez, whose laboratory is
situated at MSE’s Centre for Biomimetic Sensor Science, said they will
continue their research to better understand the design and materials
and will attempt to replicate it in the laboratory next year.
team, which includes PhD student Shahrouz Amini, will be focusing on
developing a new bio-compatible material which could be used for medical
implants such as hip implants. However, the potential applications for
these nature-inspired designs are widespread because the final product
is expected to be lighter weight and more impact resistant than existing
products. These could include new types of armour plating, lighter
vehicles and tougher engine and aircraft components like pistons and
gears, all of which suffer from impact, wear and abrasion damage over
the 36-year-old Swiss professor is working with post-graduate students
and plans to have NTU undergraduates participate in this ground-breaking
research as well. Asst Prof Miserez, who also teaches undergraduate
students, aims to have two undergraduates each year in the NTU team as
they continue their research to better understand the design and
materials with the aim of replicating it in the laboratory next year.
plans to recruit eight undergraduates per year into his research team,
which specialises in bio-mimicking – a highly interdisciplinary field.
want to inspire young people to take up science research, by giving
them a chance to participate in cutting-edge research and using
state-of-the-art equipment, just like how I was inspired by my
professors when I was a student,” said Asst Prof Miserez.
hope more students will be attracted to stay in Singapore for their
degrees because we have shown that at NTU, we are doing innovative
research on par with the rest of the world. The mantis shrimp is a
compelling example of our work, and we currently have many more exciting
projects related to bio-inspired engineering in the lab.”
Source: Nanyang Technological University