THE Mantis shrimp may weigh 400g on average but it can knock out prey with force and at great speed. A research team’s finding of why the creature’s “arms” can withstand impact and abrasion could now be applied to making medical implants that are lighter and up to 500 times stronger than existing models. Assistant Professor Ali Miserez from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) School of Materials Science and Engineering and its School of Biological Sciences, his PhD student Shahrouz Amini and Harvard University’s Dr James Weaver collaborated on the study of the shrimps’ dactyl clubs. These “arms” allow it to generate a force exceeding 500 newtons and strike prey in 2.7 milliseconds, 37 times faster than the blink of an eye.
The team discovered that each club comprises many alternating stiff and flexible layers in a spiral structure. This highly damage-resistant property could prove useful in medical products like hip and joint implants, where the wear and tear of metal components may cause complications. The team will now focus on developing a new bio-compatible material which would reduce known risks associated with these implants, like bone loss and disability. Said Prof Miserez: “Using a nature-inspired blueprint to design biocompatible implants is actually a ‘shrimple’ solution.”
The new material is expected to be lighter and more impact- resistant than existing products. It could also be used in military armour, vehicles and aircraft components. Prof Miserez said: “I want to inspire young people to take up science research, by giving them a chance to participate in cutting-edge research, just like how I was inspired by my professors when I was a student.”