One of our more ubiquitous building materials is concrete. It is strong and durable, and has been used since ancient times. Yet it does have limits. Concrete is strong against pushing (compression) forces, but weaker against pulling (tension) forces. To increase strength, it can be reinforced, usually with steel bars or fibers.
Now, researchers in Australia have found another way to make concrete stronger, especially when building structures that twist or have complex geometries. Their inspiration is the lobster’s shell.
Anyone who has ever eaten lobster knows the shells are tough to crack. They are actually less than one millimeter thick and curved. Yet microscopic inspection reveals hundreds of layers to give the shells amazing strength.
Now, 3D printer technology has provided a way to duplicate that design. By printing concrete crosswise in layers, structures can be made in a lobster-shell pattern for added strength. This is becoming especially important since climate change is causing more severe storms with higher winds. A demonstration can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJueNfbcG-k.
It’s another example of how nature has the best solutions, if we can only decipher the secrets.