Obviously, an 80 percent clear windshield isn't good enough to see through. But that's because the windowpane oyster doesn't need to be transparent, just blend in with the sandy sea bottom. The next step is to replicate the structure of the oyster shell with another material.
"How do you make a nano-composite in the structure with an anti-ballistic ceramic?" Ortiz said.
At the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS/Saint-Gobain), Sylvain Deville has come up with a unique method of using the substance secreted on the insides of shells called mother-of-pearl, or nacre, for another kind of bio-inspired armor. Deville's work was published March 23 in the same journal, Nature Materials, and uses the structure of ice crystals as a template for building the armor.
"For armor, nacre is the real standout for everyone," Deville said from his lab in Cavaillon, France. "It's so good for absorbing energy."
Deville said his method would also work to make super-strong, heat-resistant materials inside high-speed vehicle or aircraft engines. Still, the biggest challenge to both teams is scaling up the work from the laboratory to factory, according to Marc Myers, professor of materials science at the University of California, San Diego, and a leading expert on bio-mimicry.