Diamonds are widely regarded as one of the hardest naturally occurring materials known to man. A team of researchers from Durham University and the Fraunhofer Institute have created a new type of metal so hard it could rival that of diamonds.
The new synthetic metal, which has been named ‘Proteus’ was originally inspired by seashells. The material is made up of ceramic spheres suspended inside a flexible aluminum structure. While this combination may only make it around 15% as dense compared to steel, the synthetic metal is able to withstand being cut with angle grinders, power drills, or water jet cutters.
As shown in the video below, despite using an angle grinder and excessive force to try and damage the material, nothing happens. This is because rather than just being a hard surface capable of resisting external pressure, Proteus turns the force of the cutting mechanism back on itself. It’s capable of doing this because the ceramic spheres embedded into the material create vibrations that disrupt the external force.
Another reason Proteus is able to withstand external pressure so well is that when the material is cut or damaged, the ceramic spheres break into even smaller fragments which are even harder, which acts as a very hard sandpaper.
“The ceramics embedded in this flexible material are also made of very fine particles which stiffen and resist the angle grinder or drill when you’re cutting at speed in the same way that a sandbag would resist and stop a bullet at high speed. This material could have lots of useful and exciting applications in the security and safety industries. In fact, we are not aware of any other manufactured non-cuttable material in existence as of now,” said lead author Stefan Szyniszewski, Assistant Professor of Applied Mechanics, in Durham’s Department of Engineering.
Researchers hope the new synthetic metal could be used for a variety of applications, including barriers and security doors to protective gear like shoe soles and elbow pads. The only comparable material to Proteus in the natural world is diamonds, says Anderson. However, Proteus is much lighter and cheaper than diamonds, making it a far better alternative.
Take a look at Proteus in action below: