Sea Shell Armor – How

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Use nanotechnology to create a tough armor out of biomaterials? Well, it sounds impressive and also a bit familiar. Nature’s been doing it for millions of years. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“Biomaterials are absolutely fascinating because they are so incredibly complex. I would say, I’d say man is going to need at least hundreds of years before we can actually mimic nature in a way as efficient as nature is at designing its materials.

Benjamin Bruet is a graduate student at MIT’s department of Material Sciences and Engineering. He is studying the structure of seashells and trying to figure out ways to synthesize materials that mimic these lightweight, resilient forms.

“Basically, the way the snail fabricates his shell involves little tools at the molecular level called proteins. And these proteins are big molecules that will basically lay out the whole template for the shell. They will embed very small crystals within a sort of organic glue and little by little, it will build up to the final shell. But all those processes are extremely well controlled and they are happening at the molecular level, so that’s something we cannot really do right now. We can use the same proteins, say throw a bunch of proteins within a small beaker, and then dissolve some calcium carbonate. And you, amazingly, you will see those little tablets, microscopic tablets, start to grow. And so, you will be able to reproduce what those little snails do everyday. The thing is that we don’t understand all the mechanisms yet. The growth mechanisms are not fully understood. It’s a huge task. “

We’ll here more on biomaterials in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Sea Shell Armor - How

Try as they might, scientists still can't find a way to synthesize the structure of a seashell.
Air Date:09/01/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

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Use nanotechnology to create a tough armor out of biomaterials? Well, it sounds impressive and also a bit familiar. Nature’s been doing it for millions of years. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“Biomaterials are absolutely fascinating because they are so incredibly complex. I would say, I’d say man is going to need at least hundreds of years before we can actually mimic nature in a way as efficient as nature is at designing its materials.

Benjamin Bruet is a graduate student at MIT’s department of Material Sciences and Engineering. He is studying the structure of seashells and trying to figure out ways to synthesize materials that mimic these lightweight, resilient forms.

“Basically, the way the snail fabricates his shell involves little tools at the molecular level called proteins. And these proteins are big molecules that will basically lay out the whole template for the shell. They will embed very small crystals within a sort of organic glue and little by little, it will build up to the final shell. But all those processes are extremely well controlled and they are happening at the molecular level, so that’s something we cannot really do right now. We can use the same proteins, say throw a bunch of proteins within a small beaker, and then dissolve some calcium carbonate. And you, amazingly, you will see those little tablets, microscopic tablets, start to grow. And so, you will be able to reproduce what those little snails do everyday. The thing is that we don’t understand all the mechanisms yet. The growth mechanisms are not fully understood. It’s a huge task. “

We’ll here more on biomaterials in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music