Fish scales may hold the key to developing the next generation of light-weight armour systems, according to researchers, including one of Indian-origin.
“The next generation of armour systems are light, perform a lot of functions, and at the same time do not compromise on protection and nature provides very important information in terms of armour development,” said Ranajay Ghosh at Northeastern University.
Ghosh and colleagues chose to mimic the properties of fish scales because fish, like a person wearing armour, need a fine balance between mobility and protection.
Using 3-D printing, the researchers created models of fish scales that were embedded in a soft substrate.
Adding these scales caused the soft substrate to stiffen up, a response the researchers found could be achieved rather quickly because of the scales’ size and placement within the substrate.
“This is very different from what people have been working on before, which is focusing on the very nature of the scales themselves, how they will behave, and whether they break easily or not,” Ghosh said.
“Here, our focus is simply the effect of simple scales and their mutual contact and interaction with the soft substrate,” Ghosh added.
The researchers focused on examining the impact that adding scales would have on the substrate’s elasticity.
They found this makes the substrate stiffer and less penetrable and now their next step is determining how this work can help create tougher armour.
The team plans to continue with more advanced testing on fish scales’ protective properties, with the ultimate goal of combining the properties of several different animals’ scales into one armour system.
The mobility of snake scales and the optics of butterfly wings are among these intriguing properties the team hopes to investigate, Ghosh said.
The research was published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.