Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The seashell´s inner beauty

28.05.2003


Scanning electron micrograph of artificial nacre developed by researchers at Oklahoma State University and Digital Instruments/Veeco. One micron is one millionth of a meter.
Credit: Zhiyong Tang, Oklahoma State University; NSF


Photograph depicting artificial nacre and revealing the material’s thin texture and iridescence.
Credit: Zhiyong Tang, Oklahoma State University; NSF


There is more to mother-of-pearl than good looks. Also called nacre, the gleaming, white material is renowned in scientific circles for its strong, yet flexible, properties. Now researchers have developed a nanoscale, layered material that comes close to nacre’s properties, including its iridescence.

The ability to nanomanufacture artificial nacre may provide lightweight, rigid composites for aircraft parts, artificial bone and other applications.

Reporting online in Nature Materials on May 25, Nicholas Kotov and his colleagues at Oklahoma State University and at Digital Instruments/Veeco describe their method for creating nacre-like material that consists of alternating layers of clay and a type of polymer called a polyelectrolyte. Kotov received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to pursue the work.



"The discovery allows researchers to tailor flexible materials to a given application-to get the tough materials that nature has been able to produce," said Lynn Schneemeyer, the NSF program officer who oversees Kotov’s award. NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

Natural nacre owes much of its strength and flexibility to an internal brick-like structure. Protein layers only nanometers (billionths of a meter) thick provide the pliable "mortar," while calcium carbonate, the principal chemical in limestone and antacids, comprises the similarly miniscule "bricks" adding hardness.

In the artificial nacre, platelets of a negatively-charged clay called montmorillonite provide the bricks while fibers of a positively-charged polyelectrolyte called poly(diallydimethylammonium) chloride (PDDA) serve as the mortar. The opposite charges help the two components bond tightly to form the nacre structure.

"The combination of montmorillonite and PDDA for nacre modeling came to us quite naturally," said Kotov. "It was the very first clay-polyelectrolyte system I worked with a few years back." He also states that the montmorillonite has several advantages over other layered minerals, such as talc, including an ability to disperse easily in water, while the PDDA has a high affinity for clays.

Unique "sacrificial bonds" hold the polymer chains to each other in a special way that maintains strength and flexibility. The bond is a result of the polymer interacting with negative charges on the clay surfaces (or, in the case of real nacre, proteins interacting with positive calcium ions).

Such ionic bonds are strong and absorb energy when the artificial nacre is deformed. If the bonds break, they can reform when the stress goes away. They are dubbed "sacrificial" because they take the brunt of an attack, leaving the covalent bonds in the molecules intact.

The artificial nacre was created by immersing a glass slide in alternating baths of clay and polymer. A robotic device performed the 200 dips, with each dip producing several plastic clay layers-each clay and plastic layer is, on average, only 24 nanometers thick.

"It is a very robust preparation and produces beautiful layers every time," said Kotov.

Because of the artificial nacre’s potential for highstrength, protective coatings such as body armor and biocompatible substrates for growing human tissue or organs, Kotov and his colleagues are working with a company to further develop the material and techniques. And, because researchers can easily add new components like ultraviolet light- or corrosion resistant chemicals to the artificial nacre, the same manufacturing process can produce materials for a variety of applications.

Josh Chamot | NSF
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/media/start.htm
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air
26.04.2017 | University of Central Florida

nachricht Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics
25.04.2017 | University of Delaware

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>