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Mother of pearl recreated in U.K. lab
British scientists say they’ve been able to synthesize nacre, or mother of pearl — the strong, iridescent coating found on the inside of some mollusks.
Researchers at Cambridge University say the finding could pave the way for tough industrial coatings made from inexpensive and abundant materials.
The scientists were able to manufacture a material that has a similar structure, mechanical behavior and optical appearance of that found in nature, a university release said Tuesday.
The synthetic nacre was created using calcium carbonate, the primary ingredient, and a mixture of ions and organic components in a solution that mimics how mollusks control the precipitation of the calcium carbonate and form layers of mother of pearl on surfaces.
“Through our research we were able to gain insight into how [nature] grows these materials. Essentially, we have created a new recipe for mother of pearl using nature’s cookbook,” Cambridge researcher Ulli Steiner said.
A cheaply produced nacre-type coating could be useful, researchers said.
“While many composite engineering materials outperform nacre, its synthesis entirely at ambient temperatures in an aqueous environment, as well as its cheap ingredients, may make it interesting for coating applications,” Alex Finnemore said. “Once optimized, the process is simple and can easily be automated.”
Copyright 2012 by United Press International