Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Snail Shells Are Inspiring Tomorrow’s Toughest Materials

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Materials science is fascinating. Take, for example, why abalone shells are so tough. Stephen Buranyi writes in Motherboard:

At McGill University’s ​Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Bioinspiration, researchers are shaping hexagonal plates into tough, bendable armour, like the scales of a fish, and making glass that doesn’t shatter, but bends and absorbs force.

Across the Atlantic, at the ​Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen, Germany, another group is developing flexible nanoclay sheets—thinner than paper and completely translucent—that are impervious to flame and gas.

What both teams have in common is an interest in sea snails— ​abalone snails, specifically—whose shells have fascinated biologists and engineers since the mid-1970s. The shells are made of a material called nacre, which is composed almost entirely of a brittle mineral. But because of the way the mineral is organized, in sheets with tiny amounts of plastic-like proteins creating a complex system of sliding plates, nacre is over 3,000 times tougher than the mineral on its own.

“Nature takes materials that are not appealing in terms of strength or toughness and puts them together in way that produces high performance. This is the sort of thing we are after. Purely through architecture we can completely change a material’s behaviour,” said Francois Barthelat, head of the McGill lab. His team has made huge advances in toughening up one of humanity’s most familiar breakable materials—glass.

With glass, the challenge is finding a balance between strength and toughness. Glass is strong. It doesn’t bend or deform over time, but is easily shattered by a sudden impact. Plastic, on the other hand, is tough. It can survive sudden impacts, but it bends and scratches easily. But abalone shells, amazingly, combine the best features of both. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2015 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Science

One Response

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  1. Reblogged this on Brian By Experience.

    Brian Dead Rift Webb

    12 March 2015 at 11:16 pm


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