Boxfish shell inspires new materials for body armor and flexible electronics

The unusual armor that boxfish possess derives their strength from scales that are shaped like hexagons.

Engineers from the University of California conducted a study and shared their research that got published in a journal called Acta Materialia.

The researchers went on to explain that the structure that these boxfish possess can inspire structures of flexible electronics, robots and body armor.

The rock hard frame of the boxfish coupled with their flexible bodies means that these creatures are perfect for a detailed study on materials of armor.

boxfish

Termed as scutes, the scales on the boxfish are tied together with sutures.

The first author of the paper, Wen Yang explained his experience in the following words: “”The boxfish is small and yet it survives in the ocean where it is surrounded by bigger, aggressive fish, at a depth of 50 to 100 meters. After I touched it, I realized why it can survive — it is so strong but at the same time so flexible.”

Steven Naleway is a student of materials science and engineering Ph.D., who believes that most fish boast overlapping scales.

He expressed how good this design is: “That means that there are no weak points, should a bite from a predator land exactly in between scales,” he said. “We are currently investigating what mechanical advantage scutes and sutures might provide. We know that the boxfish has survived for 35 million years with this armor, so the design has proved very successful in nature.”

Every scute possesses a structure that mimics the shape of a star in its center which divides stress across the surface.

The researchers discovered a layer which makes a complex structure within which the collagen fibers intersect.

Such a structure forms an inner layer within the armor that is tough to breach as a result of the collagen fibers being interlocked.

The layers inside and outside the armor of boxfish offer unique sort of protection to the fish.

Source: EurekAlert