They started with striped bass. Over a two-year period the researchers went through about 50 bass, puncturing or fracturing hundreds of fish scales under the microscope, to try to understand their properties and mechanics better. “The people at the fish market must have wondered what we were up to,” says François Barthelat smiling ruefully.” He teaches in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering at McGill, and is one of a growing number of scientists who look to nature for inspiration as they search for solutions to engineering problems they see around them today. For several years, he and his team have been trying to replicate the kind of protection combined with flexibility offered by certain kinds of animal scales. Their goal is to create protective gloves that are both resistant to piercing and still flexible enough for factory workers to work in. After five years of work, they believe they have done it.
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