The natural cuticle of insects, like the one that forms the rigid exoskeleton of a grasshopper, is light and thin, and is designed to protect the animal from external aggressions without adding weight or volume, so that flight and other activities are not impaired . It can also be stiff in some areas of the body, such as the abdomen and chest, and elastic in the joints.
Regarding its composition, the cuticle of insects is a composite material made up of layers of chitin, a polysaccharide polymer and proteins organized in a laminar structure similar to wood. Recreating this structure in the laboratory, Javier G. Fernandez and his colleagues have created a thin film similar in strength and hardness to an aluminum alloy but with half the weight. In addition to being biodegradable, it is easy to mold, for example to form tubes. In the not too distant future, researchers suggest in the latest issue of the journal Advanced Materials , it could be used to make bags, diapers and wrappers.