They found that the goethite fibres were laced through a protein base, while the tooth itself was curved – providing perfect conditions for a high reading in the Mohs scale of hardness. The final score was an average of 5 Gpa. This trumped the previous high score holder, spider’s silk which has a Gpa of 4 (around the same as steel).
“Until now we thought that spider silk was the strongest biological material because of its super-strength and potential applications in everything from bullet-proof vests to computer electronics; but now we have discovered that limpet teeth exhibit a strength that is potentially higher.” – Barber
This rating is about the same as the pressure required to create a diamond from carbon under the Earth’s crust. Interestingly, Professor Barber likened the strength to a string of spaghetti holding up 3,000 half-kilogram bags of sugar!
Many of our great engineering feats have been inspired by nature. Each organism has evolved to be perfect at fulfilling its purpose and we can learn from them.
“This discovery means that 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.” Barber
One particular aspect that could benefit industry is the fact that the strength of a limpet’s tooth comes from its size. They are so incredibly thin that they avoid holes and flaws that are common in larger structures.
“Generally a big structure has lots of flaws and can break more easily than a smaller structure, which has fewer flaws and is stronger. The problem is that most structures have to be fairly big so they’re weaker than we would like. Limpet teeth break this rule as their strength is the same no matter what the size,” Professor Barber said.
This is truly a fascinating discovery that could change mechanical technology in the future. We can learn so much from organisms, including marine animals, that we may simply overlook. It is another lesson in taking care of every aspect of our planet.
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