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.