Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Germany have created a new synthetic hybrid material with a mineral content of almost 90 percent, yet extremely flexible.
The nanometer size of the calcite bricks facilitates bending of the synthetic spicules. The radius of curvature upon bending is very large compared to the size of the individual particles. This prevents a fracture of the brittle mineral bricks. source: Work group Tremel, JGU
They imitated the structural elements found in most sea sponges and recreated the sponge spicules using the natural mineral calcium carbonate and a protein of the sponge. Natural minerals are usually very hard and prickly, as fragile as porcelain. Amazingly, the synthetic spicules are superior to their natural counterparts in terms of flexibility, exhibiting a rubber-like flexibility.The synthetic spicules can, for example, easily be U-shaped without breaking or showing any signs of fracture This highly unusual characteristic, described by the German researchers in the current issue of Science, is mainly due to the part of organic substances in the new hybrid material. It is about ten times as much as in natural spicules.
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