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. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

Filed Under: bioinspiration, biomimicry, calcium carbonate, coral, gmo, goethite, kevlar, limpet teeth, materials, science, seashells, silk, spider silk, spiders, stronger than steel


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 5:10pm

    do any living organisms incorporate diamonds?

    I'd like to see a diamond-encrusted sea creature, that'd be the strongest natural material for sure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 5:19pm

    My diamond desires are prosaic. I want a diamond frying pan (excellent thermal conductivity and scratch resistance) and diamond coated windshields (scratch resistance and clarity).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MrTroy (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 6:17pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 8:52pm

        Re: Re:

        The hardest mineral next to diamond, corundum, is now commonly used as a [very expensive] substitute for glass. (but it's never marketed as "corundum" -- marketing types being what they are, prefer the gemstone industry's trade jargon over actual scientific & technical names)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Brazilian Guy, 17 Mar 2015 @ 2:54am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2015 @ 4:05am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MrTroy (profile), 16 Mar 2015 @ 6:18pm

    There is at least one commercial use of spider silk, but it's used as a powder, not a fiber, for cosmetics.

    And that's my learning for the day done, might as well go to bed. It's only 9am, but the day's not going to get any better now!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2015 @ 9:25pm

    Spider Silk has nothing on Carbon Nanotube fiber

    Rice University and Teijin have figured out how to spin conductive strong threads. This video is from Jan 2013:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XDJC64tDR0

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    djl47 (profile), 17 Mar 2015 @ 11:28am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SMA (profile), 18 Mar 2015 @ 5:21pm

    artificial spider silk

    amsilk (TU Munich spin off) claims to be able to produce artificial spider silk industrially,
    http://www.amsilk.com/en/products/biosteel-spidersilk-fibers.html,
    the key rather being to have the proteins readily available and not so much the very way to spin them to silk

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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