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Pomelo fruit inspires high-strength hybrid metal

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December 4, 2013

The pomelo can take a pummeling (Photo: Shutterstock)

The pomelo can take a pummeling (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here's an interesting fact about the pomelo fruit: even though a mature fruit can weigh up to 2 kg (4.4 lb), they remain intact after falling from heights of over 10 meters (33 ft). The secret lies in the structure of their peel. Scientists have copied that structure, to produce a new type of aluminum composite that's stronger than straight aluminum.

The pomelo's peel is comprised of a "graded, fiber-reinforced foam" that incorporates a myriad of tiny impact-absorbing strut-like structures. Scientists from RWTH Aachen University and the University of Freiburg, both in Germany, took that design and applied it to the creation of a unique metal hybrid.

The center of the material is composed of pure aluminum, which is good at withstanding permanent changes in shape. The outer shell, however, is made of an aluminum-silicon alloy, which has a high tensile strength (it's difficult to break, in other words). As a result, the composite resists both deformation and breakage, better than either the pure aluminum or the alloy on their own.

It has been suggested that the metal could be particularly useful in the manufacturing of strong but lightweight safety materials, particularly in the automotive industry.

Source: Springer

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
7 Comments

Bio-mimicry is going to be an ever-increasing source of innovation for humanity... this is why we should save the rain forest.... because we're throwing away untold and unimaginable riches and advances.

Racqia Dvorak
4th December, 2013 @ 04:36 pm PST

As soon as they achieve mass production and cost reduction, this will catch on for a multitude of uses.

The Skud
4th December, 2013 @ 05:52 pm PST

Dont hold your breath, the politico-military-industrial complex knows how to price things beyond reach. Maybe you can get a 'designer' piece for a nominal price of a few thousand bitcoins.

xs400
5th December, 2013 @ 03:07 am PST

Pure aluminum has less resilience than the popular alloys. Please read J.E. Gordon's books (easy) or take some engineering courses (hard) to learn how to describe materials properly in terms of strength, stiffness, and toughness.

Bob Stuart
5th December, 2013 @ 05:52 am PST

There are closed cell foam cores, open cell and fiber. A combination of composites work much better metals.

donwine
5th December, 2013 @ 08:46 am PST

This post needs a photo or a diagram of the internal structure of the pomelo peel to supplement the description.

the.other.will
5th December, 2013 @ 11:51 am PST

Amen, the other will! Pic = word x 1k

Mac McDougal
5th December, 2013 @ 04:24 pm PST
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