Whether traditional or derived from high technology, ceramics all have the same flaw: they are fragile.
[A] team of researchers led by the Laboratoire de Synthèse et Fonctionnalisation des Céramiques (CNRS/Saint-Gobain) has recently presented a new ceramic material inspired by mother-of-pearl from the small single-shelled marine mollusk abalone.
This material, almost ten times stronger than a conventional ceramic, is the result of an innovative manufacturing process that includes a freezing step.
Mother-of-pearl, which covers the shells of abalone and some bivalves, is 95% composed of calcium carbonate (aragonite), an intrinsically fragile material that is nonetheless very tough. Mother-of-pearl can be seen as a stack of small bricks, welded together with mortar composed of proteins.
Its toughness is due to its complex, hierarchical structure where cracks must follow a tortuous path to propagate.