Pearl coating inspires tougher ceramics

design for more durable ceramics

The arrangement of microplates in natural materials (left) gave scientists a blueprint for designing more durable ceramics (right), which have plates with similar sizes, 10-micrometer edges, and organization.

Sylvain Deville, Florian Bouville

A material called mother of pearl, or nacre, has inspired the design of more durable, less brittle ceramics.

Nacre, which naturally coats pearls, is made of neatly stacked microplates. Researchers forced ceramic plates of aluminum oxide to grow in a similar pattern and added aluminum oxide nanoparticles to bind them.

The resulting ceramics were stiff and tough and could withstand temperatures of up to 600° Celsius, the researchers report March 23 in Nature Materials. The more durable materials, and the process to make them, could be useful in energy and transportation applications, the scientists say. 

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Materials Science

From the Nature Index

Paid Content