Thursday, October 22, 2009

Composite Material Biomimicry - Shellfish

I have talked before about biomimicry potential in composite materials, and about spider silk as a reinforcing fiber. While recently looking at the rocky shoreline in California, I saw a family of mussels taking a beating from the powerful surf. Day after day, these creatures take a non-stop pounding in a highly corrosive and wet environment... Truly amazing. Additionally, mussels grow on anything (in-organic or organic). It is not uncommon to find mussels growing on concrete, metal, and fiberglass. It gets one thinking that mussels would be an ideal candidate to investigate for improving adhesives, and perhaps reinforcing fiber.

If you have a chance to take a close look at a mussel in the wild, you will notice is is hanging on by many tiny threads, these are called byssal threads and are extremely strong with good elastic properties.

There is a plethora of information on byssal threads, it even seems the Romans used to weave byssal threads into a lightweight and warm cloth known as sea silk. Recent research had been conducted regarding the adhesive properties, this article discusses how a key amino acid discovered from mussels is now being used as a wood glue.

Please comment if you can think of other species in nature that could advance composite materials.

Photo Credit: jkirkhart35 via flicker

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