One of these bio-inspired routes to produce new nanostructures was found with the help of the Gumboot chiton, a large sea snail that lives along the coast of California.
Its diet consists of algae, which it scrapes of the rocky seabed with its small teeth made of a material called magnetite. Magnetite is an incredibly hard oxide of iron and one of the strongest bio-minerals found in nature. Not only does this animal have extremely durable teeth. When they eventually do wear out, from grinding them against hard rocks all day, this snail is able to regrow them. A fascinating and inspiring characteristic.
How the snail is able to produce this mineral has been the focus of Dr Kisailus and his colleagues at Riverside’s Bourne College of Engineering in California.
By mimicking this process they hope to develop other materials in a similar way. Materials that could have possible applications in future generations of solar cells and batteries. Solar cells which are able to collect sunlight more efficiently, and lithium-batteries which last longer, but would take less time to charge.
One of the major advantages of this manufacturing process is the fact that it is environmentally benign and happens at room temperature. Features that make it a more desirable alternative to current methods of production.
Sources: Elements Science
Wang, Q., Nemoto, M., Li, D., Weaver, J., Weden, B., Stegemeier, J., Bozhilov, K., Wood, L., Milliron, G., Kim, C., DiMasi, E., & Kisailus, D. (2013). Phase Transformations and Structural Developments in the Radular Teeth of Advanced Functional Materials DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201202894
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