A team of materials scientists and chemists have taken inspiration from sea shells found on the beach to create a composite material from dissimilar ‘ingredients’.
Their technique could be used to make ceramics with high resistance to cracking – which could in turn be used in crack-resistant building materials and bone replacements.
Writing in the journal Advanced Materials, scientists from The University of Manchester and The University of Leeds report that they have successfully reinforced calcium carbonate, or chalk, with polystyrene particles that are used to make drinks cups.
They have developed an effective method of combining calcite crystals with polystyrene particles – and have found this makes the material more ductile compared to its original brittle form.
They report that the polystyrene also acts as a toughening agent, assisting the prevention of the growth of cracks.
Scientists also observed that when the reinforced material cracked, the polymer lengthened within the cracks – a well-known mechanism for absorbing energy and enhancing toughness.
Researchers say their method allows the properties of the new material to be tweaked by selecting particles of different shapes, sizes and composition.
Dr Stephen Eichhorn from The School of Materials at The University of Manchester, said: “The mechanical properties of shells can rival those of man-made ceramics, which are engineered at high temperatures and pressures. Their construction helps to distribute stress over the structure and control the spread of cracks.
“Calcium carbonate is the main ingredient of chalk, which is very brittle and breaks easily when force is applied. But shells are strong and resistant to fracturing, and this is because the calcium carbonate is combined with proteins which bind the crystals together, like bricks in a wall, to make the material stronger and sometimes tougher.
“We have replicated nature’s addition of proteins using polystyrene, to create a strong shell-like structure with similar properties to those seen in nature.
“Further research and testing is still needed but our research potentially offers a straightforward method of engineering new and tough chalk-based composite materials with a wide range of useful applications.”
The research was funded by grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and was conducted in collaboration with Professor Fiona Meldrum in the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds.
Suzanne Ross | EurekAlert!
Getting closer to porous, light-responsive materials
26.07.2017 | Kyoto University
25.07.2017 | Vanderbilt University
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.07.2017 | Life Sciences
26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences