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 insect shells and fungi cell walls to the recipe.
Materials scientists have long been fascinated by mother of pearl, also known as nacre, (NACK-er) because it is several times stronger than nylon, said Nicholas Kotov, associate professor at the U-M College of Engineering. Kotov's team has now succeeded in making artificial nacre.

"We think this material will be tremendously important because different sensors, different electronic materials, space shuttles, airplanes and even cars require thin sheets of ultra-strong material," said Kotov. "Additionally, we can engineer now, on a very accurate basis, the mechanical properties of the composites that we make."

Seeking a way to strengthen the artificially made nacre, researchers substituted in a material called chitosan, which is a naturally occurring compound in insect shells and the cell walls of fungi.

The nanocomposite films are made by layering molecules on top of each other. Scientists dip a substrate into a solution of electrolytes, which carries electrical current, then into a clay solution. During this process, molecules bind to the substrate and begin to form layers. The dipping is done in a specific sequence to control different properties of the film as it is layered.

"As we build up the film, we can change its structure and therefore change the mechanical and other properties," said Kotov.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Computer games give a boost to English

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Сalculations with nanoscale smart particles

Aug 19, 2014

Researchers from the Institute of General Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences and MIPT have made an important step towards ...

Hoopoes' eggs show their true colors

Aug 14, 2014

Hoopoe females use cosmetics on their eggs - and the eggs gradually change color when they are incubated, from bluish-grey to a more saturated greenish-brown. This happens because secretion from the uropygial or preen gland ...

Pentagonal nanorods show catalytic promise

Aug 13, 2014

Pentagonal nanorods have a unique morphology that confers interesting compositional and shape-dependent properties—including excellent stability and high catalytic activity—that make them excellent candidates ...

Recommended for you

Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

11 hours ago

One wish many workers may have this Labor Day is for more control and predictability of their work schedules. A new report finds that unpredictability is widespread in many workers' schedules—one reason ...

User comments : 0