20 February 2015

Limpet teeth - nature's strongest natural material

"Spider silk is famous for its amazing toughness, and until recently a tensile strength of 1.3 gigapascals (GPa) was enough to earn it the title of strongest natural material. However, researchers report online today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface that the record books need to be updated to properly recognize the incredible strength of the limpet teeth. Marine snails known as limpets (Patella vulgata) spend most of their lives scraping a set of small teeth along rocks in shallow ocean waters, looking for food. The constant grinding would be enough to quickly reduce most natural materials to nubs, but the limpets’ teeth boast a tensile strength of between 3 and 6.5 GPa..."
Microphotograph via the Washington Post, which offers these observations:
The teeth also bested several man-made materials, including Kevlar, a synthetic fiber used to make bulletproof vests and puncture-proof tires. The amount of weight it can withstand, Barber told the BBC, can be compared to a strand of spaghetti used to hold up more than 3,300 pounds, the weight of an adult female hippopotamus.

Their secret is in the size of their fibers, which are 1/100th the diameter of a human hair. The ultra-thin filaments avoid the holes and defects that plague larger strands — including man-made carbon fibers — meaning any structure they compose is also flawless, regardless of how big it gets.
The original publication is here.


  1. all these comparisons of how natural materials are so much stronger than steel or whatever are very fascinating, but, when am i going to see spider silk rope or cable on sale at home depot? if all these natural materials were that good, why aren't they being mass marketed?


    1. The big problem about putting spider silk on the market is availability. To make a rope of decent size would require something over 1 MILLION spiders (my own humble guess), and that's just to make one rope, never mind the thousands or millions of feet needed to put it on the market. That's why they are splicing spider gene into goats.

    2. so we will have string goat cheese?


  2. So you're saying Mr. Limpet had Superman teeth...too late to tell Don Knotts :/


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