A new suspension system for military vehicles is being developed which could 'bounce back' into shape after being hit by an explosion.
Inspired by the hard shells and flexible legs of ironclad beetles, it's made from the same type of bendable titanium alloy used in flexible spectacles.
Currently, the hulls of combat vehicles are protected from blasts such as mines or IEDs, but crucial parts such as the vehicle's suspension can still be damaged - meaning they have to be rescued by other military units.
It's hoped the new 'memory metal' suspension will make vehicles more blast-proof, allowing them to continue their missions even after being hit.
It also means the spring can be removed entirely from the suspension, strengthening and simplifying it. Marcus Potter, Head of Mobility at BAE Systems Land (UK), said:
"This unique use of memory metals could prove a real game-changer for combat vehicles taking part in operations. Being able to adapt to changing situations is hugely important to maintaining effectiveness, and this application of bendable titanium could give armed forces the required flexibility – and survivability – to complete tasks in challenging areas."
A small-scale prototype of the system has already been built and tested by a BAE Systems team, undergoing five increasingly powerful explosive tests, and showing significant resilience against the blasts.
Now, engineers are investigating adapting it for full-size combat vehicles, and believe it could be made available in the next decade.
The alloy was first developed by the United States Naval Ordnance Laboratory in the 1960s, but this is believed to be the first time it has been used to build an entire suspension system.