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My man, let’s call him Bob, is an engineered organism with a mix of both machinery and biology working in harmony. His skeleton and half of his major organs are machine. However, cells engineered specifically to work alongside the machinery encase his skeleton, giving him a human shape. The outer layer of the skin is like basic human skin and tears and scrapes easily - it's just there to blend in - underneath that, however, I would like a super tough fiber or leather.
Biology isn’t my forte, and my character’s biology is frequently very different due to the machinery being involved.

  • The material has to be able to be made by a cell, although this doesn’t have to be limited to what human cells can do.
  • Having it being able to protect against handheld firearms would be nice, but at least against getting cut by a sword.
  • It would be nice to be able to produce it from the compounds of normal food, however it’s fine if my character needs to eat mud or something to get the right materials to make this super skin.
  • It needs to be flexible like skin - no plate armor or crystal armor. This material needs to be hidden underneath normal skin and not hinder the movement of the character in any way.

If no material fits this description then I’ll just have to get another order of unobtainium from Amazon, but thanks for the help.

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    $\begingroup$ What's stopping your organism from having a tough exoskeleton with small pores present throughout it to allow the blood vessels that keep the skin layer alive to pass through? Exoskeletons can have variable levels of flexibility (see how the joints in insects and crustaceans aren't devoid of exoskeleton, but simply covered by a more flexible version of it), while providing great protection and places for muscle attachment. $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2022 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ with both machinery and biology at its disposal, anything really. You could postulate nanotube mesh armor providing tear resistance to a microdiamond-surfaced DU scaled skin. Put that over a suitably padded subdermal layer and your creature can stop armor-piercing antitank weaponry. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jan 14, 2022 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ "[F]requently very different" from what? $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Jan 14, 2022 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ If the creature is genetically engineered, Why do you need to complicate it by making it a cyborg? $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2022 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ What about osteoderms? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osteoderm $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 15, 2022 at 3:25

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Titins.

We have these proteins. They serve to support and strengthen muscles. If you could make a lot of them you could make super strong stuff.

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/326567-these-engineered-bacteria-can-produce-muscle-fibers-stronger-than-kevlar

The engineered bacteria are able to produce small segments of titin with their molecular machinery. Next, the cells link those segments together into long titin polymers, resulting in fibers about 50 times larger than the average bacterial protein. The team used a “wet spinning” process to collect the titin fibers, which are about 10 micrometers in diameter — thinner than a human hair but much stronger.

Because the titin fibers harvested from this process are even stronger than Kevlar, the team has speculated they could be used for protective clothing. There could also be medical applications like biocompatible sutures made from titin. They might also find use in soft robotics, taking over from less durable synthetic materials.


So there is your answer. I humbly propose that a thing that can't really be hurt has been done. I like the idea of this thing using its biology to seal wounds and heal superfast. It has muscle fibers throughout its integument and it can contract down any part of its body to seal a wound. Its cells are all mobile and cells next to a wound move into it, healing it within a few minutes. Deeper of course are machine parts. Maybe this is converging on Wolverine, though.

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Paraphrased:

What would be a stronger epidermal bio-armor that that doesn't include plates.

Historical armor:

That points to one major historical setup: Padding plus cloth layers (gambeson) plus chain-mail. This approximate configuration was used in many regions over a very long time frame over a thousand years. This suggests it is a reasonable configuration.

To get stronger would need to use better materials or different armor type such as modern composite tank armor.

Animal analogues:

Currently existing animals frequently use the the first two layers. This is accomplished with fat/blubber padding and collagen as the fibre layer. The collagen layer more resembles felt rather then woven cloth.

Fibre choice:

Alternatives to collagen for the fibre layers:

  • cotten, hemp, or flax fibres would be relatively easy alternatives. Some may be easier to produce on site within the body.
  • Spider silk would not really be an option since physical forming is a key part of its creation.
  • Aramid (Kevaler etc) fibers would be another desirable choice. Concern would be creating a biological path of their creation.
  • Buckytubes strong and plausible but need to have minimal defects for maximum strength

Layer composition:

Fat layer:

A layer of padding to absorb blunt trauma may be an issue in warmer regions. A good cooling system would critical if operating in any warmer environment.

Cloth layer

Creating an actual woven would be better but more difficult then the default alternative that would resemble felted material.

Chain-mail layer

The interlocked rings of the chain-mail would be the hardest to create in a biological system. Multiple layers would help with sustained attacks. Composing them of fibre, presumably the same fibre as used for flat layers would be simpler then trying to form them of metal or bone.

Conclusion:

The padding would mitigate blunt trauma, the fibre layers would resist cutting/slashing, the rings would resist piercing. All these layers are bio-compatible and combine to form an armor combination that was used historically in many places over a long time frame.

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    $\begingroup$ I have to vote down this one, sorry.. it does not answer the question, which has a biology tag. There is no way cells can generate chain-mail metal rings. Hint: escape from the medieval concept of body armour.. miniaturize it, work out the biology aspect some more. Think of organic webs, rather than chain-mail rings. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 14, 2022 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies it does, the chain mail portion can be skipped, There is nothing inherently impossible. Generating rings is easy, its interconnecting them that is hard. But again even with only fat and fibre layers it would be equivalent to gambeson. which is a tried and true armor type. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2022 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ Like the opener, you seem to know a lot of armor.. thing is, he'd like to know how to realize armor with biological means, within its own body. Cells under the skin have to produce it. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 15, 2022 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ An actual metallic chainmail being produced naturally sounds like a bit of a stretch given that the cells would basically need to act like a sort of 3d printer throughout the entire body for it to work. Perhaps it could rely on a very real, organic alternative that closely resembles a chainmail but isn't quite like one instead $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2022 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies The answerer specified that the 'rings' should be "Compos[ed] ... of fibre, presumably the same fibre as used for flat layers". So, in effect, you downvoted (apparently) because of your own preconception of mail, instead of based on the answer itself? $\endgroup$
    – Harthag
    Jan 17, 2022 at 19:35
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If were talking about bioengineering for mixes of meat and machine, near future technology is going to be put on the table. Youre in luck, carbon nanotubes! Flexible, really thin, very strong (stronger than steel), and it's made out of carbon. Carbon is pretty common, making the tubes... not so much. We in the modern world have only been able to produce carbon nanotube strands in lengths that are not really usable, but hey, this is future tech, we will get there at some point. And it's (probably) biocompatible because carbon is (relatively) biologically inert. Current research is still pretty primitive, we have only recently started messing with this stuff, but it shows promising results.

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  • $\begingroup$ Be aware that carbon nanotubes are very strong under tension, Their compressive strength is surprisingly terrible, and their shear strength is also fairly mediocre. $\endgroup$
    – TLW
    Jan 16, 2022 at 1:09

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