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Mantis shrimp's 'armed' power

NTU team's work could lead to damage-resistant medical products for people

Published on Apr 22, 2014 8:14 AM
The mantis shrimp arm's key element is a mineral called fluorapatite. This is also found in shark's teeth. -- FILE PHOTO: SILKE BARON  

The future of medical devices such as hip implants and prosthetic limbs, and even body armour, could literally lie in the arms of a tiny sea creature.

Researchers in Singapore have found out why the tiny mantis shrimp is able to strike its prey at the speed of a 5.56mm rifle bullet while suffering little to no damage to its club-like arms.

The team identified not only the arm's components but also how its inner arrangement improves its ability to absorb forces without harm. This work could lead to incredibly damage-resistant products for people.

The team, led by Assistant Professor Ali Miserez and graduate student Shahrouz Amini from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), published its findings in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications in January. The findings put researchers globally one step closer to replicating the material. But the team - from NTU's School of Materials Science and Engineering and School of Biological Sciences and elsewhere - said this would likely take at least three to four years.

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Background story


The challenge is to reproduce the structure with the same level of organisation that you would find in the natural system.

- Prof Ali Miserez