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New material called Proteus can’t be cut with tools

Published Jul 21st, 2020 4:38PM EDT
uncuttable material
Image: S. Szyniszewski, et al. / Scientific Reports

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  • Researchers have developed a new material that is extremely resilient to cutting tools.
  • The material, called Proteus, is a combination of aluminum and ceramic spheres.
  • Proteus is durable against cutting wheels, drill bits, and even water jets.

Safes, locks, and other items designed to provide security and theft protection are typically built out of very strong materials. That usually means hardened metals or other material that is resistant to destruction. Unfortunately for all of us, there’s really no material that can provide totally unbeatable protection, but researchers have come up with a new type of material that has a very special trick up its sleeve.

Rather than focusing on sheer strength, researchers in Europe designed a material that actively fights back against cutting tools by wearing them down at an incredibly fast rate. Even something like a cutting wheel can be rapidly beaten by the material, which its creators say is the first “manufactured non-cuttable material” ever made.

The material is a unique combination of aluminum and ceramic that its inventors call Proteus. The aluminum is a “metallic foam” that has tiny ceramic spheres embedded throughout it. This might not sound all that tough to cut through, but in reality, it’s actually a brilliant design.

“In tests Proteus could not be cut by angle grinders, drills or high-pressure water jets,” the researchers write. “When cut with an angle grinder or drill, the interlocking vibrational connection created by the ceramic spheres inside the casing blunts the cutting disc or drill bit. The ceramics also fragment into fine particles, which fill the cellular structure of the material and harden as the speed of the cutting tool is increased.”

The team compares cutting through Proteus to “cutting through a jelly filled with nuggets,” which is a pretty odd analogy, but we’ll go with it. They say that the ceramic spheres create vibrations in the cutting tool that rapidly cause it to deteriorate, whether it’s a cutting wheel or a drill bit. As for its resilience to water jet cutting, the spheres actually spread out the water when they’re hit, lessening the power of the water and lessening its ability to slice through the material.

A video demonstration showing a cutting wheel attempting to best Proteus shows just how difficult it is to cut into. As you can see, the wheel manages to make it into the surface of the material, but progress quickly halts. The wheel of the grinder then rapidly breaks down until it’s essentially worn out and in need of replacement.

The material seems like it would be great for applications like safes, but may not be quite as powerful for security items like padlocks, as there’s still some “give” that would allow small sections of it to be cut. In any case, it’s an interesting invention and one that could actually prove useful in consumer products at some point down the line.

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