Yann Delaunois

and 8 more

Spearing mantis shrimps are aggressive crustaceans using specialized appendages with sharp spikes to capture fishes with a fast movement. Each spike is a biological tool that have to combine high toughness, as required by the initial impact with the victim, with high stiffness and strength, to ensure sufficient penetration while avoid breaking. We performed a multimodal analysis to uncover the design strategies of this harpoon based on chitin. We found that the spike is a slightly hooked hollow beam with the outer surface decorated by serrations and grooves to enhance cutting and interlocking. The cuticle of the spike resembles a multilayer composite: an outer heavily mineralized, stiff and hard region (with average indentation modulus and hardness of 68 and 3 GPa), providing high resistance to contact stresses, is combined with a less mineralized region, which occupies a large fraction of the cuticle (up to 50%) and features parallel fibers oriented longitudinally, enhancing stiffness and strength. A central finding of our work is the presence of a tiny interphase (less than 10 μm in width) based on helical fibers and showing a spatial modulation in mechanical properties, which has the critical task to integrate the stiff but brittle outer layer with the more compliant highly anisotropic parallel fiber region. We highlighted the remarkable ability of this helicoidal region to stop nanoindentation-induced cracks. Using three-dimensional multimaterial printing to prototype spike-inspired composites, we showed how the observed construction principles can not only hamper damage propagation between highly dissimilar layers (resulting in composites with the helical interphase absorbing 50% more energy than without it) but can also enhance resistance to puncture (25% increase in the force required to penetrate the composites with a blunt tool). Such findings may provide guidelines to design lightweight harpoons relying on environmentally friendly and recyclable building blocks.