JUL 12, 2020 6:30 PM PDT

Scientists mimic nacre's strength and resiliency

Did you know that mother of pearl - also called nacre - is not only stunningly beautiful but also one of the strongest materials in nature? The iridescent shimmer found on the lining of the shells of some mollusks like pearl oysters and abalone are typically collected for their eye appeal - but scientists are interested in it for another reason.

According to new research published in ACS Nano, materials engineers are figuring out ways of mimicking the mineral structures of nacre in order to develop a material that could have many applications, ranging from bone implants to structures built on the moon. 

The issue up until this point is that previous attempts to mimic the aragonite mineral that make nacre so strong and resilient have utilized microscopic flat stacking bricks. Hemant Raut, Caroline Ross, Javier Fernandez, the scientists behind the new study, decided to spice up that design and try using wavy interlocking bricks more similar to the natural structure found in nacre. 

As explained in Eureka Alert, the researchers “made their composite material by forming wavy sheets of the mineral aragonite on a patterned chitosan film. Then, they interlocked two of the sheets together, filling the space between the wavy surfaces with silk fibroin. They stacked 150 interlocked layers together to form a composite that was about the thickness of a penny.”

And it worked! The material they developed was nearly two times stronger and resilient than previous attempts, almost as strong as the real thing! As the scientists write, “The resultant composite, with a similar constitution to that of the biological counterpart, nearly doubles the strength of previous nacre-mimetic composites while improving the tensile toughness and simultaneously exhibiting stiffness and biocompatibility.”

While the material has yet to be incorporated into commercial use, be on the lookout for it soon!

Photo: Pixabay

Sources: ACS Nano, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAR 13, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Pencil-Eraser Tool Can Selectively Modify Proteins
MAR 13, 2021
Pencil-Eraser Tool Can Selectively Modify Proteins
Carbohydrates are essential sources of energy, but sugar molecules serve a variety of other biological functions as well ...
MAR 31, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Can superconductor materials be produced under ambient pressures?
MAR 31, 2021
Can superconductor materials be produced under ambient pressures?
A new study published in Physical Review Letters reports on the development of the fabrication of superconducting materi ...
MAY 18, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
What's all the fuss about diamonds, anyway?
MAY 18, 2021
What's all the fuss about diamonds, anyway?
You might only think of rings and bling when you think of diamonds, but in fact, there are a whole lot more uses for dia ...
JUN 07, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Are compostable batteries on the horizon?
JUN 07, 2021
Are compostable batteries on the horizon?
Biodegradable batteries represent the holy grail of our current technological obstacles to achieving the transition to a ...
JUN 12, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The next bioplastic: plant-based spider silk
JUN 12, 2021
The next bioplastic: plant-based spider silk
A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge has designed and developed a new plastic alternative made from pl ...
JUL 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
JUL 19, 2021
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
After a month-long hiatus from its routine scientific operations, 31-year-old Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is back in wo ...
Loading Comments...