Limpet Teeth Set New Record As Nature’s Strongest-Known Material
Move over, spider silk. Turns out you’re not the toughest natural material out there.
Though spider silk has long been considered the world’s strongest biological material, new research shows that the tiny teeth of limpets — small aquatic snail-like creatures with conical shells — consist of a material known as goethite that’s actually much stronger.
“Limpets need high-strength teeth to rasp over rock surfaces and remove algae for feeding when the tide is in,” Dr. Asa Barber, a professor at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Engineering in England and leader of the research, said in a written statement. “The fibrous structures found in limpet teeth could be mimicked and used in high-performance engineering applications such as Formula 1 racing cars, the hulls of boats and aircraft structures.”
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A scanning electron microscope image of limpet teeth.
For their study, the researchers examined microscopic pieces of limpet teeth, which were around 100 times thinner than a human hair, using an atomic force microscope. They pulled on the samples to determine the amount of force the material could withstand without breaking.