Chitones (Latin Polyplacophora) are a widespread class of marine mollusks ranging in size from 1 to 35 cm. Among their counterparts, they stand out with a shell that completely covers their oval body. It consists of eight movable plates tightly adjacent to each other, which reliably protect these marine animals from enemies.
With external mechanical action on the plates, they move inward and are fixed to each other, forming a hard, durable shell. However, when moving along an uneven bottom, the plates and scales "relax" - they acquire mobility, performing the function of limbs.
It is this feature of the protective cover of chitons - strength and at the same time flexibility - that attracted the attention of an international group of scientists and led to the creation of a material that is resistant to significant mechanical stress.
The structure of the new material is in many ways reminiscent of the shell of a chiton. It consists of overlapping 3D printed rigid plates on a flexible backing. In the course of laboratory tests, it was found that these plates form a solid surface under external mechanical stress, and in its absence, they become plastic in bending.
The material has been tested for its ability to resist broken glass penetration. According to the results of experiments, scientists noted an important feature of the material: the smaller the plates forming it, the greater its flexibility and lower impact resistance.
This means that if you make a bulletproof vest from it, then in the places of bends (in the knees and elbows), the scales should be made smaller, and the body, on the contrary, should be closed with large and strong plates.