Scientists create tough ceramic that mimics mother of pearl

December 6th, 2008 - 7:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, December 6 (IANS) Scientists in the US have used biomimicry, a technological innovation inspired by nature, to replicate the structure of mother of pearl and create what may well be the toughest ceramic ever produced.Through the controlled freezing of suspensions in water of aluminium oxide (alumina) and the addition of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), a well known polymer, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Labs) produced ceramic material that is 300 times tougher than their constituents.

The team was led by Robert Ritchie, of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

“We have emulated nature’s toughening mechanisms to make ice-templated alumina hybrids that are comparable in specific strength and toughness to aluminium alloys,” said Ritchie, according to a Berkeley release.

“We believe these model materials can be used to identify key microstructural features that should guide the future synthesis of bio-inspired, yet non-biological, light-weight structural materials with unique strength and toughness,” he said.

The results were published in Science.

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