Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Oh the Shark Has Pretty Teeth Dear…

24.01.2014
Atomic resolution imaging of fluorine in shark tooth enamel

Shark teeth are supposedly the healthiest of all animals because of their particularly hard enamel. Japanese researchers have now been able to use a special electron microscopy technique to image the structure of shark enamel.



In the journal Angewandte Chemie, they report on an unusually strong bond between fluorine atoms and calcium atoms, which may be responsible for the unusual hardness and cavity resistance of shark teeth.

Biominerals play an important role for all life forms. Our own bones and teeth consist of a composite material made from biomolecules and inorganic substances. Shark tooth enamel is mainly fluorapatite (Ca5[F(PO4)3]), a mineral with a hexagonal crystal structure that contains calcium, fluorine, and phosphate. But what is it that makes the shark’s tooth enamel so particularly strong? So far, all we have determined is that it has a high density of fluorapatite crystals and a low content of organic matrix.

Determining the exact structures of biominerals turns out to be distinctly difficult. In the best cases, experiments using transmission electron microscopy have been able to deliver information on the nanometer scale. Advances like aberration correction have improved the resolution of TEM, but the signals are weak and the structures extremely complex.

In addition, the electron beam damages biominerals. A team led by Yuichi Ikuhara has now been able to examine the enamel of shark teeth by TEM and scanning TEM (STEM) with minimum interference. To achieve this, the researchers from Tohoku University, the University of Tokyo, the Graduate School of Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and the Fine Ceramics Center used an aberration-corrected electron microscopy technique that gets by with a very low dose. This method works by using a smaller condenser aperture and dispersing the electron beam over a wider area of the sample than usual.

The scientists were thus able to spatially resolve each individual atom columns inside the complex fluorapatite structure. They found that shark tooth enamel consists of bundles of monocrystalline nanorods of fluorapatite with a diameter of about 50 nm. The hexagonal shape of the crystal could also be confirmed. Every hexagon consists of calcium, phosphorus, and oxygen atoms with a fluorine atom at the center. By using ab initio calculations, the researchers were able to determine that the fluorine atoms are bound to the surrounding calcium atoms with covalent–ionic mixed bonds, not ionic bonds alone as expected. This seems to be the main reason for the special cavity resistance of shark teeth.

About the Author
Dr. Yuichi Ikuhara is a Professor at Tohoku University and the University of Tokyo with appointments in materials science. His main specialty is the application of state-of-the-art transmission electron microscopy to solve fundamental issues in materials science. He is also Director of the Research Hub for Advanced Nano Characterization and Nanotechnology Platform at the University of Tokyo, and is the recipient of the Commendation for Science and Technology by MEXT of Japan and the Humboldt Research Award.

Author: Yuichi Ikuhara, Tohoku University (Japan), http://www.wpi-aimr.tohoku.ac.jp/en/research/researcher/y-ikuhara.html

Title: Fluorine in Shark Teeth: Its Direct Atomic-Resolution Imaging and Strengthening Functio

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201307689

Yuichi Ikuhara | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:
http://pressroom.angewandte.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>