Proteus: the first non-cuttable material (science news).

Well, this is a real pisser for bike thieves – coming soon to a bike chain near you, the world’s first non-cuttable material.

Engineers at Durham University were inspired by nature to create the new lightweight material while examining the design of the tough cellular skin of the grapefruit and the fracture resistant shells of the abalone sea creature.

The material – called Proteus after the shape-changing mythical god – could be used in the security and health and safety industries.

It’s made from alumina ceramic spheres encased in a cellular aluminium, metallic foam structure and works by turning back the force of a cutting tool on itself. In tests Proteus could not be cut by angle grinders, drills or high-pressure water jets.

When cut with an angle grinder or drill, the interlocking vibrational connection created by the ceramic spheres inside the casing blunts the cutting disc or drill bit. The ceramics also fragment into fine particles, which fill the cellular structure of the material and harden as the speed of the cutting tool is increased

Essentially cutting the material is like cutting through a jelly filled with nuggets – if you get through the jelly you hit the nuggets and the material vibrates in such a way that it destroys the cutting disc or drill bit. Water jets are also ineffective because the curved surfaces of the ceramic spheres widen the jet to substantially reduces its speed and weaken its cutting capacity.

Durham University’s researchers say Proteus could be used to make bike locks, lightweight armour and protective equipment for people who work with cutting tools.

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