The silvery shine of mother-of-pearl has long been prized for jewelry and decorative arts. But the interior of mollusk shells, also known as nacre, is more than just a pretty face. It is actually one of the most robust materials in the natural world. You can drive over nacre with a truck, and while the mollusk shell might crack under the weight, the shiny interior will stay intact.
Professor in the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Yong Chen and his team have created a new 3-D-printed replica of this natural super-material, which will have important new applications in responsive smart materials and safety devices, such as helmets and armor for sports or military, as well as smart wearable technology, biomedical devices and more.
The work, which was recently published in Science Advances, also represents the first time that electrical fields were used in 3-D printing to form the material, meaning the finished product has strong electrical conductivity. This makes it ideal for smart products.
Chen and postdoctoral researcher Yang Yang worked on the paper with co-authors Qiming Wang, Assistant Professor in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Qifa Zhou, Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering and others.
Chen said that in nature, the main purpose of a material like nacre is to protect a delicate, soft-bodied creature inside the shell.
“Nacre is strong because it stacks microscale and nanoscale components together in a brick-like structure and uses soft material to bind them together.” Read full article here.
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