Extreme strength observed in limpet teeth

Asa H. Barber, Dun Lu, Nicola M. Pugno

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    The teeth of limpets exploit distinctive composite nanostructures consisting of high volume fractions of reinforcing goethite nanofibres within a softer protein phase to provide mechanical integrity when rasping over rock surfaces during feeding. The tensile strength of discrete volumes of limpet tooth material measured using in situ atomic force microscopy was found to range from 3.0 to 6.5 GPa and was independent of sample size. These observations highlight an absolute material tensile strength that is the highest recorded for a biological material, outperforming the high strength of spider silk currently considered to be the strongest natural material, and approaching values comparable to those of the strongest man-made fibres. This considerable tensile strength of limpet teeth is attributed to a high mineral volume fraction of reinforcing goethite nanofibres with diameters below a defect-controlled critical size, suggesting that natural design in limpet teeth is optimized towards theoretical strength limits.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20141326
    Pages (from-to)20141326
    JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
    Issue number105
    Early online date18 Feb 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


    • strength
    • limpet teeth


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