Researchers from the University of Portsmouth have found that limpet aquatic snail has teeth stronger than any other material on Earth. The limpets' teeth are made up of a crystalline structure so strong that it should be copied to improve our cars, aircraft, boats and space craft.
Researcher Asa Barber said, "Until now we thought that spider silk was the strongest biological material because of its super-strength and potential applications in everything from bulletproof vests to computer electronics, but now we have discovered that limpet teeth exhibit a strength that is potentially higher."
AdvertisementThe researchers revealed that the secret appears to be in a mineral substance known as goethite and this crystal forms in the limpet as it grows, enabling the conical-shelled critter to strip algae from rocks. Barber said, "Limpets need high strength teeth to rasp over rock surfaces and remove algae for feeding when the tide is in. We discovered that the fibers of goethite are just the right size to make up a resilient composite structure. The whole tooth is slightly less than a millimeter long but is curved, so the strength is dependent on both the shape of the tooth and the material. Generally a big structure has lots of flaws and can break more easily than a smaller structure, which has fewer flaws and is stronger and the problem is that most structures have to be fairly big so they're weaker than humans would like. Limpet teeth break this rule as their strength is the same no matter what the size."
The study appears in the Royal Society journal Interface.