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Microscopic holes deter fractures: starfish


Sea Star / Mike Murphy / LicensePD - Public Domain

Ossicles of starfish resist fractures via microscopic holes in the structure.

"Use 'foamy' materials in which any threatening crack will be in short order run into a hole. Not only does this reduce the chance of cracking, but it saves material--less can be more…The little hard bits of echinoderms, the ossicles, develop as single crystals, but they avoid the excessive brittleness typical of crystals by being especially holey, as in figure 16.9. Wood gains some material benefit from similar voids. Such materials come under the heading of 'cellular solids,' the term having no connection with 'cellular' in the strictly biological sense--but in the sense that Hooke…originally used the word for the microscopic holes in cork." (Vogel 2003:338-339)
About the inspiring organism
Med_starfish Asteroidea

Learn more at
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Concrete and other building materials that better resist fractures, ceramics that resist fracture, cans and other packaging that fracture more easily (maybe to save energy during recycling?). Plastics (computer cases, etc.) that prevent cracks from spreading; building materials, such as concrete, that stop cracks from spreading; pipes that "self-arrest" any cracks.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction, ceramics, materials science, building science, pipes

Vogel S. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.
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