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E. Abalone Shells May Guide Development of New Body Armor

Narrator: This is Science Today. Abalone shells, which are highly prized as a source of colorful, mother-of-pearl jewelry, are being considered as a possible guide for a new generation of lightweight bullet-stopping armor. Engineering researcher Marc Meyers of the University of California, San Diego says the seaweed-eating snail creates a tough shell with highly ordered, brick-like tiles one of the toughest arrangements of tiles theoretically possible.

Meyers: We want to mimic these methods for synthesizing with our stronger materials. We need to understand how growth takes place if we are going to apply similar concepts to our synthetic materials and then produce materials that are one order of magnitude stronger than the existing one.

Narrator: The researchers joined technological forces with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to get the first detailed look at the protein structure of the abalone shell.

Meyers: It's up to us to understand first, how these organism create these structures and then how we can imitate them.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.