Researchers create artificial mother of pearl, pave way for tough coatings

Jul 24, 2012
Mother of pearl next to artificial nacre Cavendish Laboratory

(Phys.org) -- Mimicking the way mother of pearl is created in nature, scientists have for the first time synthesised the strong, iridescent coating found on the inside of some molluscs. The research was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

Nacre, also called mother of pearl, is the iridescent coating that is found on the inside of some and on the outer coating of pearls. By recreating the biological steps that form nacre in molluscs, the scientists were able to manufacture a material which has a similar structure, mechanical behaviour, and optical appearance of that found in nature.

In order to create the artificial nacre, the scientists followed three steps. First, they had to take preventative measure to ensure the , which is the primary component of nacre, does not crystallise when precipitating from the solution. This is done by using a mixture of ions and in the solution that mimics how molluscs control this. The precipitate can then be adsorbed to surfaces, forming layers of well-defined thickness.

Next, the layer is covered by an organic layer that has 10-nm wide pores, which is done in a synthetic procedure invented by co-author Alex Finnemore. Finally, is induced, and all steps are repeated to create a stack of alternating crystalline and organic layers.

Professor Ulli Steiner, of the Department of Physics' Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, said: "Crystals have a characteristic shape that reflects their atomic structure, and it is very difficult to modify this shape. Nature is, however, able to do this, and through our research we were able to gain insight into how it grows these materials. Essentially, we have created a new recipe for mother of pearl using nature's cookbook."

Alex Finnemore, also of the Department of Physics' Cavendish Laboratory, said: "While many composite engineering materials outperform nacre, its synthesis entirely at in an aqueous environment, as well as its cheap ingredients, may make it interesting for coating applications. Once optimised, the process is simple and can easily be automated."

Explore further: Chemists characterize 3-D macroporous hydrogels

More information: The paper 'Biomimetic Layer-by-Layer Assembly of Artificial Nacre' will be published in the 25 July edition of Nature Communications.

Related Stories

U-M team makes synthetic mother of pearl

Mar 17, 2005

It's possible to grow thin films of mother of pearl in the laboratory that are even stronger than the super-strong material that naturally lines the inside of abalone shells. The trick is to add compounds normally found in ...

Synthetic materials that behave like mollusk shells

Feb 02, 2011

Nacre, commonly known as mother-of-pearl, is the iridescent material lining many mollusk shells. It is part of a two-layer armor system that protects the animal from predators. The brittle outer layer of the shell absorbs ...

Fraud with cultured pearls can be detected

Jul 15, 2008

Scientists at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany) advise buyers of cultured pearls to be more vigilant. "In Germany too, we are increasingly seeing Chinese sweet-water cultured pearls being marketed as Japanese, ...

Recommended for you

New CMI process recycles magnets from factory floor

8 hours ago

A new recycling method developed by scientists at the Critical Materials Institute, a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the Ames Laboratory, recovers valuable rare-earth magnetic material from ...

Chemists characterize 3-D macroporous hydrogels

12 hours ago

Carnegie Mellon University chemists have developed two novel methods to characterize 3-dimensional macroporous hydrogels—materials that hold great promise for developing "smart" responsive materials that ...

Substrates change nanoparticle reactivity

17 hours ago

(Phys.org)—Nanoscale materials tend to behave differently than their bulk counterparts. While there are many theories as to why this happens, technological advances in scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) ...

Reviving cottonseed meals adhesives potential

20 hours ago

Cottonseed meal—the leftovers after lint and oil are extracted from cottonseed—is typically fed to ruminant livestock, such as cows, or used as fertilizer. But Agricultural Research Service scientists ...

New concrete composite can heal itself

20 hours ago

In the human body, small wounds are easily treated by the body itself, requiring no further care. For bigger wounds to be healed, the body may need outside assistance. Concrete is like a living body, in that ...

Actuators that mimic ice plants

21 hours ago

Engineers developing moveable robot components may soon take advantage of a trick plants use. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and Harvard University in Cambridge ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dnatwork
5 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2012
Forget coatings: regrow tooth surfaces in situ.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2012
"plant more trees" - Freeman Dyson (is smarter than you).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.