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Bioinspir Biomim. 2010 Sep;5(3):035001. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/5/3/035001. Epub 2010 Aug 20.

Nacre from mollusk shells: a model for high-performance structural materials.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


Nacre is the iridescent layer found inside a large number of mollusk shells. This natural composite has a very high mineral content, which makes it hard and stiff. However it is the toughness of nacre which is the most impressive: it is three orders of magnitude tougher than the mineral it is made of. No manmade composite material can boast such amplification in toughness, and for this reason nacre has become a biomimetic model material. The mineral in nacre comes in the form of microscopic polygonal tablets, which have the ability to 'slide' on one another in large numbers when the material is loaded in tension. This key mechanism makes nacre a quasi-ductile material, which in turn greatly increases its toughness and makes it damage tolerant. Numerous 'artificial nacres' were developed in the past but none of them can truly duplicate the remarkable mechanism of tablet sliding. In this work selected structural features of nacre were implemented in a PMMA-based composite, which for the first time could replicate the collective tablet sliding mechanism. This material demonstrates that the powerful toughening mechanism operating in natural nacre can be duplicated and harnessed in engineering materials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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