Ten Materials Inspired By Mother Nature (VIDEO)

The natural world is filled with strange, fascinating structures that are stronger, more flexible and more resilient than anything humans can make.

8. Tear-proof reptilian eggshells

Photo: Joshua Ganderson/Flickr/CC
Photo: Joshua Ganderson/Flickr/CC

While most people associate eggshells with brittle chicken eggs, many species rely on tougher materials to protect their delicate embryos. Reptiles that lay their eggs in the wild greatly depend on producing eggshells that are tough enough to prevent breaking by predators or natural elements, but still porous enough to resist drying out.

One useful protective feature in reptilian eggs is their ability to deform significantly, allowing them to absorb mechanical shocks and prevent tearing by predators. Studies by Professor Chen Po-Yu at the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan have shown that reptile eggshells are only partially calcified; instead, they contain a significant amount of keratin-like proteins that absorb mechanical energy when stretched.

Researchers are only now attempting to replicate these eggshells, as well as similar ones from marine snails. Applications could include the encapsulation of delicate cells in tissue engineering, or perhaps, cartilage implants with improved durability.

Ali Miserez is an assistant professor at the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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