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Pearly perfection: Odd explanation for why pearls are spherical in nature

Date:
June 19, 2013
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
The mystery of how pearls form into the most perfectly spherical large objects in nature may have an unlikely explanation, scientists are proposing in a new study.

Pearls. Developing a ratchet-like surface could explain how pearls grow into such perfect spheres, scientists have found.
Credit: © Minerva Studio / Fotolia

The mystery of how pearls form into the most perfectly spherical large objects in nature may have an unlikely explanation, scientists are proposing in a new study. It appears in ACS' journal Langmuir, named for 1932 Nobel Laureate Irving Langmuir.

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Julyan Cartwright, Antonio G. Checa and Marthe Rousseau point out that the most flawless and highly prized pearls have perhaps the most perfectly spherical, or ball-like, shape among all the objects in nature that are visible without a microscope. Pearls develop as nacre (mother of pearl) and other liquids accumulate around grains of sand or other foreign objects inside certain oysters and other shellfish. But how do pearls grow into such perfect spheres?

The answer, they say, may be relatively simple -- with developing pearls having a saw-toothed, or ratchet-like, surface. That texture generates forces that make the pearl turn inside the oyster's tissues in response to movements in the environment. The result is a spherical build-up of nacre and other textures. Rotating pearls are a perhaps unique example of a natural ratchet, the scientists say.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Julyan H. E. Cartwright, Antonio G. Checa, Marthe Rousseau. Pearls Are Self-Organized Natural Ratchets. Langmuir, 2013; 130618094939007 DOI: 10.1021/la4014202

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Pearly perfection: Odd explanation for why pearls are spherical in nature." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130619132454.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2013, June 19). Pearly perfection: Odd explanation for why pearls are spherical in nature. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130619132454.htm
American Chemical Society. "Pearly perfection: Odd explanation for why pearls are spherical in nature." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130619132454.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

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