Artificial Superhard Ceramics Out of Mother-of-Pearl


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.

Top image via Go Girls Go.
Bottom image via Sylvain Deville, Florian Bouville.

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About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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