DailyDirt: The Strongest Natural Materials

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Mother Nature is actually really good at making some impressively strong and tough materials. Kevlar and steel are pretty strong and useful, but there are a few natural materials that are stronger. Spider silk has been a synthetic target for decades, but being able to create just the spider silk protein isn’t enough to make super strong fibers. Spiders actually produce different kinds of silk for different purposes with different mechanical properties, and the process of spinning spider silk isn’t easy to duplicate without using spiders. If we’re going to use less “plastic” in the future, we might need to figure out how to re-create some unique natural materials.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: The Strongest Natural Materials”

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11 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: do any living organisms incorporate diamonds?

It’s not as flashy as diamonds, but crysomallon squamiferum absorbs iron sulfide from hydrothermal vents to build the outermost layer of its shell. It’s basically a snail that crafts its own plate-mail (and even wears a squishy doublet underneath).

(http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18404-deepsea-snail-shell-could-inspire-nextgen-armour.html)

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Does diamond coating actually provide clarity though? Either you have a solid diamond crystal that is the same size as your windshield and is laminated over the top, or you’ve precipitated diamond crystals onto your windshield using some kind of deposition technique. The former will definitely give you clarity, but we’re a long way from making diamond (or cutting?) crystals that size yet*, and I’m not certain that a deposited diamond layer would be transparent.

*- I would love to see what happens to a diamond like that when it shatters!

Also, a diamond frying pan would be pretty nifty, as long as it’s easy to clean.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“You know that diamonds actually burn right? And that, being made from carbon, frying oil will do horrible things to the coating quickly. Diamonds are nota forever.”

Everything burns, though the ignition temperature can vary considerably. Many substances not generally thought of as particularly ‘flammable’ will easily burn, given sufficiently high temperatures — a property that includes all fire “proof” materials.

Although diamonds are indeed made of carbon, the C=C bonds are extremely strong, making diamond far more burn-resistant than coal. As well as more burn-resistant than many metals. For comparison, a common frying pan material, aluminum, has an autoignition temperature of 760 deg C — while that of diamond is another 200 degrees higher.

http://avogadro.chem.iastate.edu/MSDS/Al_powder.htm

In short, a frying pan made out of a giant diamond would be quite usable. And unlike metals such as aluminum or copper, there would be zero danger of any possible long-term poisoning.

djl47 (profile) says:

Diamond, Barnacles and mussels

All this talk about diamond makes me wonder how hot you have to get a large diamond for it to ignite and burn like a piece of charcoal.
Would diamond incorporated into a windshield cause distortion due to its high refractive index?
One of the very tough materials is the glue that barnacles and mussels use to attach to a surface. Anyone who has scraped barnacles from the hull of a ship can attest to how tough they are to remove.

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