Deer antlers are damage resistant thanks to their intricate nano-structure

Deer antlers inspire nano-tech damage-resistant materials

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers are developing nano-structured damage-resistant materials inspired by the nano-level structure of deer antlers.

Using computer modelling and x-ray imaging, the team from Queen Mary University London (QMUL) has created a first-of-its-kind nano-level model of the antlers.

They found that the antlers are extremely sturdy thanks to their delicate nano-structure, consisting of intricately layered fibrils each only one thousandth of the thickness of a human hair in diameter. This nano-structure enables deer to lock horns in a fight without immediate breakage.

“The fibrils that make up the antler are staggered rather than in line with each other,” explained Paolino De Falco from QMUL’s School of Engineering and Materials Science who led the study published in the latest issue of the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

“This allows them to absorb the energy from the impact of a clash during a fight.”

The researchers hope to use the insights to develop a next generation of damage-resistant composite materials that could be produced layer by layer by 3D printing.

“Our next step is to create a 3D printed model with fibres arranged in staggered configuration and linked by an elastic interface,” said the report’s co-author Ettore Barbieri, also from QMUL’s School of Engineering and Materials Science.

The research fills a previous gap in the area of structural modelling of bone.

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