A four-inch tropical mantis shrimp with a power-packed punching arm is the newest darling of material scientists at the Bourns College of Engineering, University of California–Riverside. The shrimp, or stomatopod, has a bright orange fist-like club that accelerates faster under water than a 22-caliber bullet and can break open mollusk shells and crab exoskeletons, two well-studied impact-resistant materials. The stomatopod whacks another sea creature approximately 50,000 times during its lifespan, and assistant professor David Kisailus wanted to know how its club arm worked.
The highly complex club structure has three specialized regions that create a structure tougher than many engineered ceramics. “The club is stiff, yet it’s lightweight and tough, making it incredibly impact tolerant and, interestingly, shock resistant,” said Kisailus. The shrimp’s materials or design could be applied to protective gear, cars, airplanes and other products that take a beating but still need to be lightweight. Read more about the research.