University Of Michigan Team Makes Synthetic Mother Of Pearl

It's possible to grow thin films of mother of pearl in the laboratory that are even stronger than the super-strong material that naturally lines the inside of abalone shells. The trick is to add compounds normally found in insect shells and fungi cell walls to the recipe.

Materials scientists have long been fascinated by mother of pearl, also known as nacre, (NACK-er) because it is several times stronger than nylon, said Nicholas Kotov, associate professor at the U-M College of Engineering. Kotov's team has now succeeded in making artificial nacre.

"We think this material will be tremendously important because different sensors, different electronic materials, space shuttles, airplanes and even cars require thin sheets of ultra-strong material," said Kotov. "Additionally, we can engineer now, on a very accurate basis, the mechanical properties of the composites that we make.

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