Research highlight

Biomaterials: Mother of pearl in the lab

Nature Communications

July 25, 2012

A strategy for making artificial nacre, more commonly known as mother of pearl, is reported for the first time in Nature Communications this week. This nature-inspired process may pave the way for tough and iridescent surface coatings which can be made from cheap starting materials and uses sustainable methods.

Nacre is a biomaterial with a multi-layered organic-inorganic structure which displays greater mechanical strength and optical iridescence than either of its components. Ulrich Steiner and his colleagues use a layer by layer approach to manufacture artificial nacre from calcium carbonate - mimicking the natural growth conditions. The resulting material is iridescent and displays greater mechanical toughness than natural nacre

The development of artificial nacre should lead to a deeper understanding of how this material forms in molluscs and how we can enhance its properties in the lab.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1970

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