Rudolph's Antlers Inspire Next Generation of Unbreakable Materials

December 20, 2016 | Queen Mary University of London

Rudolph's antlers inspire next generation of unbreakable materials
Mule deer buck.
Photo credit: Pixabay

Scientists have discovered the secret behind the toughness of deer antlers and how they can resist breaking during fights.

The team looked at the antler structure at the 'nano-level', which is incredibly small, almost one thousandth of the thickness of a hair strand, and were able to identify the mechanisms at work, using state-of-the-art computer modelling and x-ray techniques.

First author Paolino De Falco from QMUL's School of Engineering and Materials Science said: "The fibrils that make up the antler are staggered rather than in line with each other. This allows them to absorb the energy from the impact of a clash during a fight."

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The research, published today in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, provides new insights and fills a previous gap in the area of structural modelling of bone. It also opens up possibilities for the creation of a new generation of materials that can resist damage.

Co-author Dr Ettore Barbieri, also from QMUL's School of Engineering and Materials Science, said: "Our next step is to create a 3D printed model with fibres arranged in staggered configuration and linked by an elastic interface.

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The aim is to prove that additive manufacturing -- where a prototype can be created a layer at a time -- can be used to create damage resistant composite material."

This article has been republished from materials provided by Queen Mary University of London. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Research paper:

P. De Falco, E. Barbieri, N. M. Pugno, et alStaggered fibrils and damageable interfaces lead concurrently and independently to hysteretic energy absorption and inhomogeneous strain fields in cyclically loaded antler bone. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.6b00637

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