Material mimics mother-of-pearl in form and substance

1:29pm, June 17, 2003

Gleaming, iridescent mother-of-pearl possesses more than beauty. The material, technically called nacre, has strength and toughness that materials scientists envy because it's made of highly ordered layers.

Now, researchers have designed a synthetic material that mimics both nacre's internal architecture and its strength.

Nicholas Kotov of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and his colleagues modeled their material after natural mother-of-pearl, which gets its properties from a brick-and-mortar structure of calcium carbonate held together by a network of proteins. Natural nacre also benefits from so-called sacrificial ionic bonds between proteins, which break under stress but can reform.

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