Limpet teeth could inspire composite material

Atomic force microscope (AFM) topography image of the focused ion beam (FIB)-milled rectangular beams exposed at the anterior surface of the limpet tooth
Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have found that limpet teeth could be a model for short fibre-reinforced material composition.

The mechanical function of limpet teeth is dependent on the efficient composite behaviour of goethite, formed as distinct, discontinuous nanofibres. Researchers used atomic force microscopy to measure the tooth structure and found that the length of goethite nanofibres are optimised for the transfer of stress from the matrix to fibre. They conclude that the limpet tooth structure is efficient in a mechanical load-bearing function.

The research, published in Interface, Royal Society Publishing, looks at the teeth of limpets (Gastropoda) which are a product of biomineralisation processes where the mineral phase is predominantly elongated nanofibre crystals of goethite (a-FeOOH) encapsulated within an organic chitin matrix. The primary function of limpet teeth is to remove algae from rock surfaces. To rasp teeth over the rock surface requires them to be mechanically robust under mechanical loading conditions.

Previous work has examined limpet teeth using macroscopic testing methods. Currently there is little understanding on how the nanoscale constituents define overall mechanical behaviour in limpet teeth.

Caroline Hayes

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