Flexible high-tech armor mimics armadillos

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

armadillo material
Researchers got the idea to use glass as a flexible material from mollusk shells, which would be very brittle if not for their special design.

Armadillos may not be the biggest, nor the baddest creatures around, but they’re definitely well-protected by the thick heavy armors on their backs. In fact, researchers inspired by the creatures designed high-tech armor that can resist steel needles.

Using the same segmented patterns found in armadillo hides and marine creature shells, scientists used lasers to carve out six-sided shapes onto glass. Creating these tiny slices in the glass made it 200 times stronger than usual! According to the researchers, it’s because these cuts allow the glass to be flexible instead of shattering like standard hard glass.

The engineers then took that glass and used a special adhesive (sticky substance) to glue it onto a soft rubber-like material. The result was an incredibly sturdy armor! When the researchers pushed a heavy steel needle into their creation, the armor was about 70% stronger than when it was made with glass that didn’t have the laser carvings.

Now, scientists are brainstorming different ways to apply their invention to areas like body armor, protective coatings, and flexible electronics.

Image of mollusk courtesy of François Barthelat.