Dr Anderson has played an important role in the conceptualising of Proteus. She said: “It has been exciting to be involved in this project and the development of Proteus.
“Proteus is designed on natural materials – the light but tough, cellular skin of the grapefruit and the fracture-resistant shells of molluscs – it's inspiration by nature and its name reflect the ideas of renowned philosopher Francis Bacon. In 1605, he compared natural materials to the Greek god Proteus who ‘ever changed shapes’ and he argued that, through experimentation, we can reveal the metamorphic qualities of materials, and so advance knowledge. That’s why we named the material Proteus.”
When cut with an angle grinder or drill, the interlocking vibrational connection created by the ceramic spheres inside the casing turns the destructive force back on itself – blunting 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. So the adaptive nature of the material further repulses any attack.
The team believe Proteus could be used to make bike locks, lightweight armour and protective equipment for people who work with cutting tools.
The project – funded by the UK Home Office, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and a European Commission Career Integration Grant – also involved: Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU; Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut; and Leibniz University Hannover, Institute of Plastics and Circular Economy IKK (all Germany); and the University of Surrey.
The paper, Non-cuttable material created through local resonance and strain rate effects, is published in Scientific Reports.