Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a new bio-inspired composite material based on the structure of a tiny crustacean. The unique structure, called a helicoid, prevents cracks from growing and dissipates significant amounts of energy from strikes.
The new helicoid technology, which creates material with a structure that resembles twisted plywood, is borrowed from a creature that has survived in the seas for centuries. The mantis shrimp evolved an internal structure to protect the hammer-like club it uses to pulverize prey. The unique structure, called a helicoid, wraps within the mantis shrimp’s club and protects it from damage as it delivers crushing blows to its hard-shelled prey. David Kisailus, professor of chemical and environmental engineering and materials science and engineering at the University of California (UC), Riverside, and his team discovered manufacturing composite materials and components using this helicoid structure results in lighter, tougher and more impact-resistant products.
UC Riverside’s Office of Technology Partnerships (OTP) leads technology transfer, industry partnership, and entrepreneurship efforts for the university. The OTP team, the scientists and others worked with Helicoid Industries to support fundraising and licensing for the project, resulting in Helicoid acquiring the license for the technology.
Helicoid Industries is embarking on a sub-licensing strategy and is targeting manufacturers in the wind turbine, aerospace, sporting goods, auto parts, defense, and industrial components sectors. They feel that the biggest impact could be felt in wind turbine manufacturing, where Helicoid composite materials would make larger, more lightweight blades and improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of wind-based energy production.
“Utilization of this bio-inspired technology will enable composites to be lighter weight, more impact-resistant, more durable, and be manufactured at a lower overall cost. Applying this new architecture into composite materials across a variety of sectors will be very beneficial to the composite industry,” said Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Helicoid.