Creating Artificial Mother-Of-Pearl

Using a bottom-up assembly strategy, researchers in China have developed a method to scale-up the production of high-performance artificial nacre.

AsianScientist (Sept. 4, 2017) – In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists in China have devised a method to create artificial mother-of-pearl at scale.

Nacre is famous for its ingenious hierarchical brick-and-mortar structure, an example of how nature achieves brilliant mechanical properties. Hence, nacre is one of the most studied natural structural materials, and there has been great interest in the fabrication of artificial nacre-inspired materials.

High-performance nacre-mimetic materials, especially those that are large and three-dimensional (3D), have promising applications for biomedicine, construction, aerospace and military armor. Various methods have been exploited during the past two decades to replicate nacre features. However, it is still a significant challenge to scale up the production of 3D artificial nacre.

To address this challenge, a research group led by Professor Yu Shuhong from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) developed an efficient bottom-up assembly strategy using matrix-directed mineralization, a method derived from their previous work on biomimetic synthesis of 3D bulk nacre-like material. The scientists easily produced large-sized, 3D bulk artificial nacre that closely mimicked the hierarchical structures and mechanical properties of natural nacre.

Their method even allows the optimization of the hierarchical architecture of the artificial nacre, from the molecular level to the macroscopic level. This optimization can result in the mechanical performance of artificial nacre surpassing that of natural nacre and many other engineering materials.

Importantly, this bottom-up strategy has no size restriction or fundamental barrier for further scale-up, and can be easily extended to other material systems, opening an avenue for mass production of high-performance bulk nacre-mimetic structural materials in an efficient and cost-effective way for practical applications.

The scientists proposed that their method can serve as a practical guideline for the further development of bioinspired structural materials on the basis of similar bottom-up assembly strategies.

The article can be found at: Gao et al. (2017) Mass Production of Bulk Artificial Nacre with Excellent Mechanical Properties.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Mauro Cateb/Flickr/CC.
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