Science 3 min read

MIT Scientists Use Lobsters To Develop Flexible Body Armor

This new body armor could significantly help law enforcement officers in the field ¦ Image via MIT

This new body armor could significantly help law enforcement officers in the field ¦ Image via MIT

MIT researchers are attempting to help law enforcement officers by creating a form of body armor made out of lobsters' exoskeletons.

MIT Professor, Ming Guo experienced a light-bulb moment while eating a lobster. He noted that as hard as he tried, he couldn’t chew the transparent membrane under the animal’s belly.

So, Guo decided to unravel the mystery behind the lobster’s softer tissue – maybe even create a body armor from it.

Thousands of law enforcement officers wear body armor every day. With the tightly woven fiber panels, the vest protects the wearer from handguns and rifle ammunition. As a result, tons of officers owe their lives to ballistic vests.

A survey to assess the life-saving effectiveness of body armor revealed that out of the 637 officers shot by a firearm in the torso, those who wore body armor were 76% less likely to be killed than those without.

Be that as it may, a ballistic vest is far from perfect. Studies reveal that it not only reduces marksmanship, but focus as well. Furthermore, it increases the physiological cost of completing a task when on duty.

As efficient as kevlar is at stopping bullets from handguns, they often come with a 5-year expiry date. There is also the issue with loose fitting, especially for female officers.

Perhaps the biggest challenge with the current body armor is the user’s mobility – or the lack thereof. Law enforcement officers often sacrifice natural movement for protection when they wear body armor. These are the issues that a lobster-made armor solves.

Based on a recent publication in journal Acta Materialia, the lobster membrane is the toughest of all natural hydrogels.

So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that MIT researchers teamed up with Harvard to create a new body armor using the soft membrane found in the crustacean.

Not only is the material as tough as the industrial rubber used to make car tires, but it’s just as flexible. As such, it can help develop a new armor design that covers joints such as knees and elbow.

Simply put, lobster exoskeleton would enable the development of armor strong enough to stop bullets, but soft and bendy enough to allow for flexibility.

In a statement to MIT News, Guo, the d’Arbeloff Career Development Assistant Professor in the mechanical engineering department at MIT said;

“If you could make armor out of these types of materials, you could freely move your joints, and it would make you feel more comfortable.

The MIT Professor also believes that materials designed to mimic the lobster membrane could help in tissue engineering and soft robotics.

Read More: Human Exoskeletons Could be Just Around the Corner

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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