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The Incredible Mr. Limpet's Teeth

limpet shells
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Slide over spider, there's a new heavyweight in town - the limpet. Researchers from the University of Portsmouth believe that the tiny teeth of these snail-like creatures may be the strongest biological material in the world; even stronger than spider's silk. Made up of a super-hard material known as goethite, the teeth cover the limpet's tongue, and are used to scrape algae from the surface of rocks. The researchers examined the strength of the teeth with atomic force microscopy, which can be used to pull apart materials at the atomic level. They also found that the teeth, which are less than 1 millimeter in length, are the same strength regardless of their size. This is an unusual property, as larger structures tend to have more flaws and weaknesses. By studying the composition and structure of limpet teeth, engineers can once again find inspiration in nature. The structures found in these teeth may be replicated to develop strong composite materials that could be used in everything from spacecraft to race cars. 




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