Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Limpet teeth set new strength record

18 February 2015 Last updated at 00:07

By Jonathan WebbScience reporter, BBC News

Engineers in the UK have found that limpets' teeth consist of the strongest biological material ever tested.

Limpets use a tongue bristling with tiny teeth to scrape food off rocks and into their mouths, often swallowing particles of rock in the process.

The teeth are made of a mineral-protein composite, which the researchers tested in tiny fragments in the laboratory.

They found it was stronger than spider silk, as well as all but the very strongest of man-made materials.

The findings, published in the Royal Society's journal Interface, suggest that the secret to the material's strength is the thinness of its tightly packed mineral fibres - a discovery that could help improve the man-made composites used to build aircraft, cars and boats, as well as dental fillings.

"Biology is a great source of inspiration as an engineer," said the study's lead author Prof Asa Barber, of the University of Portsmouth.

"These teeth are made up of very small fibres, put together in a particular way - and we should be thinking about making our own structures following the same design principles."

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