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Scientists: We Made the First Material That Can't Be Cut

Inspired by abalone shells, its first application might be bike locks
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2020 8:59 AM CDT
Updated Jul 25, 2020 11:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists in the UK have bad news for bike thieves: They say they've created the first artificial material that cannot be cut. In fact, the more someone tries to cut it, the more damage they will do to their blade, per a post at Phys.org. The material, dubbed Proteus, takes its inspiration from the unlikely duo of abalone shells and grapefruit peels—not so much from the actual material of their protections but from the way that material is structured. The shells, for instance, "are made from a relatively weak material but arranged in a way that means sharks can’t easily bite through," per Fast Company. The material created in the lab could not be cut even by angle grinders or drill bits, the researchers say in Scientific Reports.

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“The inspiration came from nature, from biological structures,” says Stefan Szyniszewski of the UK's Durham University. The new material is lightweight—the tough but light peels of grapefruit helped here—and it's "made of ceramic spheres encased in a cellular aluminum structure," according to the Phys.org post. The ceramics "stiffen and resist the angle grinder or drill when you're cutting at speed in the same way that a sandbag would resist and stop a bullet at high speed," says Szyniszewski. The resulting material potentially has all kinds of applications in the world of security, including bank vaults. But the first practical application might be bike locks, per Fast Company. In fact, Szyniszewski says a manufacturer already has expressed interest in using the material. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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