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World’s first uncuttable metal could dispel would-be bike thieves

It could be as tough as Wolverine’s adamantium claws.

Proteus Metal

The world’s first uncuttable metal has been developed by a team of engineers from Britain and Germany claiming that it could be used to make thief-proof bike chains and locks. The team of engineers working on the new material has named it Proteus, after the Greek god of the sea. The molecular structure of the Proteus metal is inspired by two things — the tough cellular skin seen in grapefruit, and the fracture-resistant shells of mollusks.

Proteus Metal

The metal itself has small ceramic spheres encased in a cellular aluminum structure. When the metal is cut with an angle grinder or drill, the vibrations created by the small ceramic spheres inside the casing effectively blunt the cutting disc or drill bit, eventually rendering it completely useless. The vibration building between the tiny spheres has an interlocking action on the cutting material turns a destructive force right against the cutting material. When a high-powered water jet was used to try to cut the metal, the ceramic spheres dispersed the water jet and greatly reduced its effectiveness. If a thief should attempt to break a motorcycle or scooter’s lock and chain made out of Proteus metal, they’ll just end up wasting their time and destroying their own cutting equipment. 

Dr. Stefan Szyniszewski, an assistant professor at Durham University better explained the analogy of how the Proteus metal behaves like the skin of a grapefruit and a mollusk’s shell.

We were intrigued by how the cellular structure of the grapefruit and the tiled structure of mollusk shells can prevent damage to the fruit or the creatures inside, despite being made of relatively weak organic building blocks. These natural structures informed the working principle of our metallic-ceramic material, which is based on dynamic interaction with the applied load, in contrast to passive resistance.

He added, “Essentially cutting our material is like cutting through a jelly-filled with nuggets. If you get through the jelly you hit the nuggets and the material will vibrate in such a way that it destroys the cutting disc or drill bit.”

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