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Tough Ceramics through Biomimicry
Jeremy Faludi, 29 Jul 04

Prof. George Mayer and his team at the University of Washington have had some new success in imitating nature to create advanced materials. They have produced a brick-and-mortar style composite of ceramic and polymer which imitates the microstructure of mollusk shells, and it has proven to be six times tougher than a solid block of the ceramic.

The secret is to have squishy mortar instead of strong/brittle mortar. This allows the energy of cracks to be diverted into tortuous paths and multiple paths; it also causes increased crack surface area, pull-out of ceramic layers from the polymer, crack bridging by the polymer, and other effects. Two articles on the advance were published in last month's American Ceramic Society Bulletin, though a subscription is required in order to read it. (Though if someone's really dying to read the gory details, I have the articles.)

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