Fabrication and Structural Analysis of Synthetic Nacre
 2017-04-27  Font Size:[Large Medium Small]
For a long time, the development of artificial structural materials has highly depended on discovering new compounds. In contrast, living things construct their structural materials, such as nacre, by integrating soft organics and hard but brittle minerals. These components are assembled and organized into hierarchical structures which are well-designed from molecular scale to macro scale. It is a promising route for exploring future materials that combine artificial compounds with the hierarchical structures optimized via natural selection. Nevertheless, the fabrication of biomimetic structural materials is still full of challenges, including the limit of available material type and the low efficiency. In response to these challenges, Shuhong Yu’s group from USTC proposed a consecutive assembly-and-mineralization process to create their synthetic nacre by mimicking the process that mollusks adopted to produce nacreous layers. The synthetic nacre bears a striking resemblance to natural nacre with respect to the components (~90 wt% of CaCO3 and ~10 wt% of chitin and silk fibroin), the hierarchical structures and the fine features (waviness, roughness and dovetail structure). The laminated structure of the material was characterized by X-ray CT at NSRL, which is very important for explaining the extraordinary mechanical properties of the synthetic nacre. As a significant breakthrough in the fabrication of bio-inspired materials, this alternative strategy is applicable to a wide range of components including ceramics, metal-organic frameworks. In addition, by applying different predesigned matrix and mineralization/precipitation conditions, the nano- to microscopic structures can be controlled. This feasible strategy has potential applications in many fields such as tissue engineering and aerospace industry. This work was published in Science (Science, 2016, 354(6308), 107). 


(a) SEM of Synthetic Nacre at Multiscales,(b)2D slice of Synthetic Nacre at Multiscales


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