Scientists create artificial mother-of-pearl with bacteria

Scientists create artificial mother-of-pearl with bacteria
Credit: University of Rochester / J. Adam Fenster.

In a new study, Rochester researchers have created artificial mother-of-pearl with bacteria.

One of the strongest synthetic materials comes from nacre, which is also known as mother-of-pearl.

Nacre has an exceptionally tough, stiff material produced by some mollusks and serving as their inner shell layer.

it also comprises the outer layer of pearls, giving them their lustrous shine.

Previous research has tried to produce artificial nacre, but their methods require expensive equipment, extreme temperatures, high-pressure conditions, and toxic chemicals.

In the study, the team has developed an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to make artificial nacre using an innovative component: bacteria.

They used two strains of bacteria to replicate the layers in nacre. Under an electron microscope, the artificial structure was layered similarly to nacre produced naturally by mollusks.

The artificial nacre has the toughness of natural nacre and is also bendable.

The team suggests that the novel material may help develop new applications in medicine, engineering, and space.

For example, the artificial nacres are made of materials the human body produces or that humans can eat naturally anyway.

They can be used to build artificial bones and implants.

It is also very lightweight and can be used in transportation vehicles like airplanes, boats, or rockets.

The new material can also be used for civil engineering applications like crack prevention, protective coatings, or for the conservation of cultural artifacts.

Currently, the team is looking at coating other materials like metal with the nacre. They hope to make thicker, nacre-like materials faster using entire material itself.

The lead author of the study is Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor of biology.

The study is published in Small.

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