Hand injury is very common in industrial places but is usually an unheard topic today. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, more than one million workers go to the emergency room every year due to hand injuries- 70% of those workers doesn’t’ have protection while 30% of those workers were
wearing gloves but by the looks of it, weren’t able to provide adequate guard.
A solution for this has been developed through an odd and unexpected
inspiration- Alligator gar scales. This aquatic creature is the largest gar species of ancient megafish. They can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 300 lbs, with rows of sharp teeth and a heavily armored body. But, as mentioned, it’s the latter characteristic that took the attention of the researchers.
Those scales are tough—really tough.
Scales were made up of a layer of dentine (the mineralized material is also found inside human teeth) and a layer of inorganic bone salt. Moreover, it’s mostly its design and configuration that provided the armor protection. Through a series of experiments the researchers were able to identify a set of critical mechanisms in the way natural fish scales deform, interact, and fracture. Researchers were then able to determine the optimal size, shape, arrangement and overlap to make protective gloves which are much more resistant to piercing than those currently in use.
"Fish scales surprised us," says Roberto Martini, a post-doctoral fellow and the lead author on a paper the team recently published about their work. "It may sound counter intuitive, but we discovered that smaller scales are actually more difficult to pierce than the larger ones, something we can now fully explain using engineering analysis. We also learned that they are the toughest collagen-based material known."
That’s because the smaller sized tiles can delay fracture of tiles due to their lower flexural. Plus, larger scales “produce stiffer responses, since large scales deform a larger volume of the backing material,” the authors write in the paper.
Perhaps just like biofabrication
and many other advancements, it is indeed still to the nature where we go back to. This time, the nature solved another engineering problem!