What could be stronger than diamond, you might ask. Interestingly, scientists have discovered a naturally occurring material that could be the strongest mechanically, potentially stronger than diamond. More interestingly, the strongest material forms the teeth of an aquatic creature- the Limpet. Limpets are small aquatic snail- like creatures with conical shells.
Limpet teeth could be the strongest material known to man. Supposedly, the structure of the material of these teeth could be copied for applications of the future- including the fabrication of various parts of cars, planes and boats of the future.
Until now, it was known that spider silk- the very material used in bulletproof vests, and electronic hardware- is the strongest biologically occurring material. It is now found that Limpet teeth could possess greater strength.
Examination of the small-scale mechanical behavior of limpet teeth using atomic force microscopy pulled apart the material all the way down to the level of an atom. The teeth contain a hard mineral known as goethite, which forms in the limpet as it grows. Limpets need very strong teeth to feed on algae by rasping over rock surfaces when the tide is in. According to the study, the fibers of goethite have the perfect size to make up a resilient composite structure.
These fibrous structures could essentially be mimicked and used in high-performance engineering applications such as formula 1 cars, the hulls of boats or aircraft structures.
The most compelling thing about these Limpet teeth is that they are all of the same strength regardless of their size.
Generally a big structure has lots of flaws and can break more easily than a smaller structure, which has fewer flaws and is stronger. The problem is that most structures have to be fairly big so they’re weaker than we would like. Limpet teeth break this rule as their strength is the same no matter what the size
– the researchers point out.
The tooth, though less than 1 millimeter long, is curved and that accounts for the dependence of the strength of the teeth on the material as well as the shape.
Who could imagine biology could be a great inspiration for the technology of tomorrow?
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