19 February 2015

Limpet, a Sea Snail: The World's New Strongest Natural Material

Aside from the Spider-Silk, Scientists have found the new strongest natural material in a sea snail's teeth. Sorry Spider-man.

Or is this the real material that has similar properties of Wolverine's Adamantium ?
In the Marvel Universe, adamantium is a group of man-made metal alloys of varying durability, but all are nearly indestructible. Adamantium is inadvertently invented by the American metallurgist Dr. Myron MacLain in an attempt to recreate his prior discovery, a unique alloy of steel and vibranium (which requires an unknown catalyst for its manufacture). ~ Wikipedia
Scientists find this aquatic snail, Limpet's teeth, to be the new world's strongest natural material. They said that the structure of the Limpet's teeth can be reproduced to make high-performance material for cars, boats, and planes.

By the way, what is a Limpet?
Limpet is a common name applied to aquatic snails with shells broadly conical in shape, rather like the conical Asian hat ~[ Wikipedia ]
Limpets are tough little snails that live everywhere in the ocean, from the deepest, darkest canyons to the roughest, toughest surf. Their jaunty, cone-shaped shell protects a sturdy foot that clings to rocks with a phenomenal grip. Limpets dine on algae, unrolling a long tongue studded with hundreds of sharp teeth that scrape their dinner off boulders and cliffs. [Biomimicry: 7 Cool Animal-Inspired Technologies]
Limpet. Image: blogs.ei.columbia.edu
The Limpet's teeth (Patella vulgata) are said to be tougher than Kevlar and stronger than spider silk, according to researchers report in the Feb. 18 issue of The Royal Society journal Interface.

"Spider silk has been winning this competition for a long time. I was surprised and excited that limpet teeth beat the winner," said lead study author Asa Barber, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Portsmouth in England.
The researchers at the University of Portsmount examined the properties and the mechanics of the Limpet's Teeth.
Limpets have a tongue or ‘radula’
Limpets have a tongue or ‘radula’ covered in tiny teeth that scrape away at the rock surface. Photograph: University of Portsmouth
Scientists found that the snail-like creature's teeth are potentially stronger than spider silk that was previously thought to be the strongest biological material.

Spider silk was the strongest biological material but now scientists have discovered limpet's teeth to be potentially higher in applications usage.
“Until now, we thought that spider silk was the strongest biological material because of its super-strength and potential applications in everything from bulletproof vests to computer electronics, but now we have discovered that limpet teeth exhibit a strength that is potentially higher.”
As Prof Asa Barber, who led the study, said:
 Nature is a wonderful source of inspiration for structures that have excellent mechanical properties. All the things we observe around us, such as trees, the shells of sea creatures and the limpet teeth studied in this work, have evolved to be effective at what they do.
Barber and his team used atomic force microscopy to examine and tested a microscopic piece of limpet tooth. The secret to the tooth strength according to them lies in the size of the fibrous structures.

Atomic force microscopy,  a method used to dissect materials all the way down to the atomic level.

The sample used was microscopic -- 100 times thinner than a human hair. The technique for breaking down a sample of this size has only just been discovered.

Inside the teeth, the team discovered a mineral called goethite, which falls at about 5.0 to 5.5 on the Mohs Scale of hardness. This mineral develops inside the limpet as it grows. The tooth is also curved, which contributes to its strength.

Barber said:
 We discovered that the fibres of goethite are just the right size to make up a resilient composite structure. This discovery means that the fibrous structures found in limpet teeth could be mimicked and used in high-performance engineering applications such as Formula One racing cars, the hulls of boats and aircraft structures.

The report was published Feb. 18 issue in the Royal's Scientific Journal Interface. Lastly, sorry spider-man. :)

References: [TheGuardian] [LiveScience]  [Cnet

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