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!
A materials scientist’s dream come true
21.08.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Novel sensors could enable smarter textiles
17.08.2018 | University of Delaware
There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.
The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
21.08.2018 | Life Sciences
21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering