Washington: Insect cuticle has inspired scientists to develop a new material that duplicates its exceptional strength, toughness and versatility. Low-cost, biodegradable, and biocompatible, the new material called Shrilk could one day replace plastics in consumer goods and be used safely in a variety of medical applications.
“It (shrilk) has the potential to be both a solution to some of today's most critical environmental problems and a stepping stone toward significant medical advances,” said Donald Ingber, founding Director of Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and professor.
Natural insect cuticle or chitin, found in the rigid exoskeleton of a housefly or grasshopper, combines both protection and light weight, the journal Advanced Materials reports.
As such, it can deflect external chemical and physical strains without damaging the insect's internal components and protecting the insect's muscles and wings, according to a Harvard statement.
Shrilk is similar in strength and toughness to an aluminium alloy, but it is only half the weight. It is biodegradable and is readily available as a shrimp waste product. It is also easily moulded into complex shapes, such as tubes.