Sorry, Spiders: Limpet Teeth Are The World’s Strongest Natural Material

If you happen to meet up with a Limpet today, don’t let the wee beastie lick you.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have found that limpet teeth are the strongest natural material on earth (at least as far as we currently know.) Previously spider silk was thought to be the strongest natural material, and has been used as a model to create lightweight but super tough things bulletproof vests to computer electronics.

Limpets are snail-like creatures, which typically can be found along shorelines and rock pools around the world. Unlike humans, limpet teeth are on their tongues’, which are known as radula. A limpet has hundreds of teeth on its radula, and they use these teeth to do things like scrape away at rock surfaces to strip them of algae.

After examining limpet teeth down to the atomic level, scientists have concluded that Limpet teeth contain a hard material known as goethite, and the fibres of goethite are just the right size to make up a resilient composite structure. We can probably mimic their structure to create Formula One cars, as well as high-speed boats and planes.

Prof Asa Barber, who led the study, said: “Nature is a wonderful source of inspiration for structures that have excellent mechanical properties. All the things we observe around us, such as trees, the shells of sea creatures and the limpet teeth studied in this work, have evolved to be effective at what they do. Engineers are always interested in making these structures stronger to improve their performance or lighter so they use less material.”

Limpet teeth are almost five times as strong as bamboo, and ten times as strong as human teeth. And their teeth were also found to be the same strength, no matter what their size. This is interesting, because larger structures tend to be more breakable as they typically contain more flaws than smaller structures. Limpet teeth break this rule.

The overachieving limpet may also hold the secret to making transparent displays for consumer devices, which would require no internal light source. AN MIT/Harvard study suggests that the blue-rayed limpet, which has bright blue iridescent stripes on its translucent shell, has managed to create shell material that reflects the blue spectrum of incoming light while absorbing all other colors to ensure that blue stays bright and true.

Butterfly wings have scales that also manipulate light to produce beautifully vivid reflected colors, but the blue-rayed limpet is the first known example of an organism that uses mineralized structural components to produce color changes. The limpet does this fancy trick so that it looks like another snail, which happens to be toxic when eaten.

Examining excellent natural designs and then mimicking them known as bio-inspiration. If you’re inspired by the story of Limpet teeth and want to make your own pearly whites stronger and healthier, regular dental care is a must. If that’s not in your budget – fret  not, we can help you save every time you go to the dentist. To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.


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