The seashell-inspired material inspiring a new wave of safety gear in sport
Thursday 30 April 2015
Professor Andy Alderson's research into 'auxetic' materials has been featured in a leading online publication.
The research, which demonstrates how auxetic materials have the potential to make sports equipment safer, has received funding from a number of UK and overseas agencies and has attracted substantial media coverage.
The inspiration for the current work on auxetic materials for improved impact protection equipment in sports comes from the ultimate natural armour protection system: the humble seashell. Put simply, the inner layer found in seashells – nacre, also known as mother of pearl – provides high stiffness, strength and toughness, properties to withstand a predator bite or rock impact on the shell surface. This exceptional combination of properties enables the seashell to avoid catastrophic failure and maintains the integrity of the shell in the event that the hard and brittle outer layer becomes cracked. Nacre is also known to be auxetic.
In work just published, Andy and his team reported auxetic foams covered by a rigid outer shell (mimicking the two-layer seashell structure) display an average of six times the reduction in peak acceleration under impact typical of many sporting applications.