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: Local education politics 'far from dead'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scalping can raise ticket prices

10 hours ago

Scalping gets a bad rap. For years, artists and concert promoters have stigmatized ticket resale as a practice that unfairly hurts their own sales and forces fans to pay exorbitant prices for tickets to sold-out concerts. ...

Tropical Storm Genevieve forms in Eastern Pacific

12 hours ago

The seventh tropical depression of the Eastern Pacific Ocean formed and quickly ramped up to a tropical storm named "Genevieve." NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured an infrared image of the newborn storm ...

Recommended for you

F1000Research brings static research figures to life

3 hours ago

F1000Research today published new research from Bjorn Brembs, professor of neurogenetics at the Institute of Zoology, Universitaet Regensburg, in Germany, with a proof-of-concept figure allowing readers and reviewers to run ...

How science can beat the flawed metric that rules it

5 hours ago

In order to improve something, we need to be able to measure its quality. This is true in public policy, in commercial industries, and also in science. Like other fields, science has a growing need for quantitative ...

Decoding ethnic labels

6 hours ago

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Local education politics 'far from dead'

Jul 29, 2014

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

User comments : 0