Nature’s blueprint for fracture-resistant cement
The sea urchin spines are mostly made of calcite, usually a very brittle and fragile material. In the case of the sea urchin, however, the spines are much more durable than the raw material alone. The reason for its strength is the way that nature optimises materials using a brick wall-style architecture. The research team Physical Chemistry, headed by Professor Helmut Cölfen, successfully synthesised cement at the nano-level according to this “brick and mortar principle.” During this process, macro-molecules were identified that take on the function of mortar, affixing the crystalline blocks to each other on the nano-scale, with the blocks assembling themselves in an ordered manner. The aim is to make cement more durable. The study’s results are published in the 1 December 2017 issue of Science Advances.