What’s the Strongest Biological Structure?

AppleSnails

For years biologists have considered spider silk to the strongest biological substance on the planet, beating out diamonds, steel and graphene. But not anymore.

Now, scientists have discovered that the teeth of limpets (sea snails) are the strongest biological material known to science.

limpet-teeth-university-of-portsmouth

According to the study:

The toughness lies in its ability to pack thin material fibers into a small space, which produces high volume segments of reinforcing nanofibres. Remarkably, it’s a “natural design” that’s optimized towards theoretical strength limits. These teeth are approaching, or have already approached, a kind of fitness peak for bio-material strength.

“[Our] observations highlight an absolute material tensile strength that is the highest recorded for a biological material, outperforming the high strength of spider silk currently considered to be the strongest natural material, and approaching values comparable to those of the strongest man-made fibres,” note the authors in their study, which now appears at the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The new research shows that the teeth of limpets — conical shaped sea snails (Patella vulgata) that scour rocks in shallow waters — feature a tensile strength of between 3 and 6.5 gigapascals (GPa). Compare that to the previous record holder, spider silk, which has a tensile strength around 1.3 GPa.

What does this discovery mean? The substance could be used to for high-tech materials in the production of cars, aircraft, boats and even medical devices dental fillings.

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