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Sea Shell Design

May 21, 2015

Materials scientists are studying the structure of sea shells to design stronger materials.



Engineering ideas from snails. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Every seashell is a structure honed by millions of years of evolution to protect a soft creature from predators and the crushing forces of waves and water pressure. Rice University materials scientist Chandra Sekhar Tiwary says different demands led to different designs.


So if you have high pressure or a more harsh environment, you have a different shape. So you have a huge variety of shells depending on the environment.


In the journal Science Advances, Tiwary and his colleagues take a close look at two kinds of shell: a hinged clam like design, and a long spiral. They tested actual shells and 3D printed versions to learn how their shapes and structural elements direct forces away from the animal inside. Analysis of these elegant and economical designs could be useful in everything from packaging to architecture.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.