Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Composite Material Is Almost Better Than Mother-of-pearl

March 10, 2008
ETH Zurich
Strong, tough but light is the rare but desired combination of properties for numerous artificial materials. Now a new material is similar to natural mother-of-pearl, but twice as strong. Nacre, or mother-of-pearl, is one of nature's outstanding examples of a durable brick and mortar structure.

Structure of mother-of-pearl (small photo) and the new composite material (large photo).
Credit: courtesy of ETH Zurich, Prof. J. Woltersdorf & amp; Dr. E. Pippel for large photo; small inset photo: Wikipedia

Researchers in ETH Zurich’s Department of Materials (D-MATL) have developed a new nacre-like composite that is twice the strength of naturally-occuring mother-of-pearl. Stronger ceramic platelets combined with ductile biopolymer Chitosan have created composites capable of withstanding a deformation of 25% before rupturing.

Nacre, or mother-of-pearl, is one of nature’s outstanding examples of a durable brick and mortar structure. Made of stiff, inorganic aragonite platelets and ductile biopolymers, the material combines toughness with a surprisingly high degree of strength. The researchers, led by Ludwig Gauckler, Professor of Non-mettalic Inorganic Materials have shown that ceramic alumina platelets and biopolymer Chitosan can be assembled layer-by-layer to form thin foils of a composite material exhibiting a nacre-like structure.

Nearly better than the original

In comparison to the stronger composite material developed, natural nacre deforms only one to two percent before reaching breaking point. Because it is not yet possible to obtain defect-free structures of such high platelet content as nacre, the stiffness of the new composite is five to seven times less than that of its natural counterpart. However, the new composite retains most of the ductility of polymer matrix composites, materials which can be used at high temperatures and are stronger, lighter and more resistant to corrosion.

Conventional thin foils of other materials such as metals, polymers or fiber-reinforced composites may be up to one order of magnitude stronger and stiffer, but few materials reach the same combination of strength and ductibility per unit weight as the new nacre-like foils developed by the ETH Zurich team.

Development of the new nacre-like composite has opened the door to further research, such as manufacturing the foils at high speed. The ETH Zurich team is also exploring the use of different “glues” and platelets of different geometry in order to improve the composite’s mechanical properties. As well under study is the optimization of the platelet-glue interface. This research is currently being carried out in collaboration with Professor J. Woltersdorf and Dr. E. Pippel at the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics in Halle, Germany and the polymer groups at ETH Zurich.

Further research underway

ETH Zurich’s research establishes concepts for tailoring the mechanical properties of composite materials. The combination of nature’s smart structural design with the enhanced properties of artificial building blocks should make possibe the creation of even more composites with similar combinations of mechanical properties.

Future research will address achieving ever-thinner polymer layers and ceramic platelets while maintaining the integrity of the mechanical concept of nacre, as well as researching whether the polymer layer can approach atomic thickness yet keep the nacre-like behaviour of the composite.

Journal reference: Bonderer, Lorenz J., Andrι R. Studart & Ludwig J. Gauckler (2008): Bio-inspired Design and Assembly of Platelet Reinforced Polymer Films, Science Vol. 319, 1069 (2008); DOI: 10.1126/science. 1148726

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ETH Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

ETH Zurich. "New Composite Material Is Almost Better Than Mother-of-pearl." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080307102657.htm>.
ETH Zurich. (2008, March 10). New Composite Material Is Almost Better Than Mother-of-pearl. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080307102657.htm
ETH Zurich. "New Composite Material Is Almost Better Than Mother-of-pearl." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080307102657.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This

More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) — The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) — The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) — President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) — Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins