A new artificial material effectively cannot be cut, holding out the promise of lightweight but cut-proof bike locks, security doors and protective clothing.
Its inventors embedded ceramic spheres in aluminium foam to create a material that couldn’t be cut with angle grinders, power drills or water jet cutters. They dubbed it Proteus after the shape-shifting Greek god, for the way the material metamorphosised in different ways to defend against attacks.
“It’s pretty amazing,” says Miranda Anderson at the University of Stirling, who worked on the project. Rather than just being a hard surface that resists external pressure, the material turns the force of the drill or cutting mechanism back on itself, as the ceramic spheres create vibrations that disrupt the external force. “It actually destroys the cutting blade through the sideways jerky vibrations that it creates, or it widens the water jet’s spray,” says Anderson.