Monday, February 25, 2019

Lobster armor? Talk about a throwback!

I'm amused to see that the humble lobster may be the inspiration for a new generation of personal armor protection.

In a new paper ... researchers reveal that the soft underbelly of the American lobster is so great at protecting the creature’s insides from the jagged ocean floor that a similar material could be useful for humans as full-body protection.

The underside of the lobster’s tail is equipped with a membrane of incredible strength. Unlike the more rigid panels that cover the top side of the creature, the coating on its belly is very flexible. The team even compares it to industrial rubber in terms of its strength. Such materials are typical used in things like car tires and garden hoses, MIT says.

“Most modern body armors sacrifice limb protection to gain mobility, simply because none of the existing armor materials are flexible enough and they all inhibit movement of the arms and legs,” the researchers write. “Herein, we focus on the mechanics and mesoscopic structure of American lobsters’ soft membrane and explore how such a natural flexible armor is designed to integrate flexibility and toughness.”

There's more at the link.

This is amusing because, in the English Civil War (1642-1651), a unit of Parliamentarian cavalry formed and led by Sir Arthur Haselrig was proudly known as the London Lobsters.  "The unit derived its name from the regiment being one of very few units raised as cuirassiers, equipped in suits of plate armour reaching from the head to the knee."

Talk about being ahead of your time!  I daresay the shades of those old cavalrymen are raising a glass or two of their favorite beverage at the news of this advance in technology.



BC said...

Look at the modern baseball catcher's shin and leg guards. As the plastic molding process has become more advanced, the shape of the guards appears to move closer to the shape of the shell on the lobster's tail to give both more flexibility and better protection.

It would be an interesting project to take a look at pre-industrial warfare armor, modern sporting protective equipment, similar shapes in nature and current military equipment to see what could be shared from one to another.

TheAxe said...

In Revolutionary times we called the British soldiers Lobsterbacks because their red coats resembled boiled lobsters.

Beans said...

The lobster reference was more towards the lobster-tail helmet they wore. The top bowl had an articulated tail of metal bands riveted and slotted to allow the tail to flex and move easily while still protecting the neck.

Articulation and joint protection have always been the prime failure points of armor. Do you articulate up or down (overlap upwards, with the biggest plate on the bottom covering a smaller plate and so forth, or overlap downwards, bigger plate on top covering smaller plates and so forth.) Funny thing, infantry body armor articulated down (think Roman lorica) while horseman's body armor tended to articulate up (think Japanese armor or Greek chariot armor.)

Soft armor that protects and flexes? That right there would be totally cool. Scaled up it would allow better protection on vehicles and in flex coupling protection.

Larry said...

Um, the underside of a lobster's tail is more like that of a "buff coat" (Google, please, I can't link for some reason). Plate would be the rigid top armor of a lobster tail. The buff coat (possibly with chain mail) might be the under-armor of the tail.

Sherm said...

As I'm sure you're aware the armour of a Cuirassier wasn't a guarantee:

McChuck said...

Just what the troops need. More and heavier armor. They're only carrying 120 pounds of gear now. Must add more. More! MOAR!

And throw on some more batteries while we're at it.

tiredWeasel said...

But... bullet's don't "tear" like the sharp debris on an ocean floor the lobster walks across - they "pierce". That would make a good armour against road rash though.