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.