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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Due to their low damage tolerance, engineering ceramic foams are often limited to non-structural usages. In this work, we report that stereom, a bioceramic cellular solid (relative density, 0.2–0.4) commonly found in the mineralized skeletal elements of echinoderms (e.g., sea urchin spines), achieves simultaneous high relative strength which approaches the Suquet bound and remarkable energy absorption capability (ca. 17.7 kJ kg−1) through its unique bicontinuous open-cell foam-like microstructure. The high strength is due to the ultra-low stress concentrations within the stereom during loading, resulted from their defect-free cellular morphologies with near-constant surface mean curvatures and negative Gaussian curvatures. Furthermore, the combination of bending-induced microfracture of branches and subsequent local jamming of fractured fragments facilitated by small throat openings in stereom leads to the progressive formation and growth of damage bands with significant microscopic densification of fragments, and consequently, contributes to stereom’s exceptionally high damage tolerance.

  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  4. Knobby starfish construct a skeleton with a periodic porous lattice from single-crystal calcite for enhanced protection.
  5. Biological systems have a remarkable capability of synthesizing multifunctional materials that are adapted for specific physiological and ecological needs. When exploring structure–function relationships related to multifunctionality in nature, it can be a challenging task to address performance synergies, trade-offs, and the relative importance of different functions in biological materials, which, in turn, can hinder our ability to successfully develop their synthetic bioinspired counterparts. Here, we investigate such relationships between the mechanical and optical properties in a multifunctional biological material found in the highly protective yet conspicuously colored exoskeleton of the flower beetle, Torynorrhina flammea . Combining experimental, computational, and theoretical approaches, we demonstrate that a micropillar-reinforced photonic multilayer in the beetle’s exoskeleton simultaneously enhances mechanical robustness and optical appearance, giving rise to optical damage tolerance. Compared with plain multilayer structures, stiffer vertical micropillars increase stiffness and elastic recovery, restrain the formation of shear bands, and enhance delamination resistance. The micropillars also scatter the reflected light at larger polar angles, enhancing the first optical diffraction order, which makes the reflected color visible from a wider range of viewing angles. The synergistic effect of the improved angular reflectivity and damage localization capability contributes to the optical damage tolerance. Our systematic structural analysismore »of T. flammea ’s different color polymorphs and parametric optical and mechanical modeling further suggest that the beetle’s microarchitecture is optimized toward maximizing the first-order optical diffraction rather than its mechanical stiffness. These findings shed light on material-level design strategies utilized in biological systems for achieving multifunctionality and could thus inform bioinspired material innovations.« less
  6. Cuttlefish, a unique group of marine mollusks, produces an internal biomineralized shell, known as cuttlebone, which is an ultra-lightweight cellular structure (porosity, ∼93 vol%) used as the animal’s hard buoyancy tank. Although cuttlebone is primarily composed of a brittle mineral, aragonite, the structure is highly damage tolerant and can withstand water pressure of about 20 atmospheres (atm) for the speciesSepia officinalis. Currently, our knowledge on the structural origins for cuttlebone’s remarkable mechanical performance is limited. Combining quantitative three-dimensional (3D) structural characterization, four-dimensional (4D) mechanical analysis, digital image correlation, and parametric simulations, here we reveal that the characteristic chambered “wall–septa” microstructure of cuttlebone, drastically distinct from other natural or engineering cellular solids, allows for simultaneous high specific stiffness (8.4 MN⋅m/kg) and energy absorption (4.4 kJ/kg) upon loading. We demonstrate that the vertical walls in the chambered cuttlebone microstructure have evolved an optimal waviness gradient, which leads to compression-dominant deformation and asymmetric wall fracture, accomplishing both high stiffness and high energy absorption. Moreover, the distribution of walls is found to reduce stress concentrations within the horizontal septa, facilitating a larger chamber crushing stress and a more significant densification. The design strategies revealed here can provide important lessons for the development of low-density,more »stiff, and damage-tolerant cellular ceramics.

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