Armor plating with built-in transparent ceramic eyes

November 19, 2015

Tiny sea creatures feature transparent optical systems as tough as their shells.

Usually, it’s a tradeoff: If you want maximum physical protection, whether from biting predators or exploding artillery shells, that generally compromises your ability to see. But sea-dwelling creatures called chitons have figured out a way around that problem: Tiny eyes are embedded within their tough protective shells, with their transparent lenses made of the same ceramic material as the rest of their shells — and just as tough.

These armor-plated eyes could provide a model for protective armor for soldiers or workers in hazardous surroundings, say researchers at MIT, Harvard University, and elsewhere who analyzed the structure and properties of these uniquely hardy optical systems. Their work is described this week in the journal Science by MIT professor Christine Ortiz; recent MIT graduate and Harvard postdoc Ling Li; recent MIT graduate Matthew Connors; MIT assistant professor Mathias Kolle; Joanna Aizenberg from Harvard University; and Daniel Speiser from the University of South Carolina.

See the full story at the MIT News Office.

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