Photo: University of Cambridge biomimicks natural mother of pearl coating found on mollusks. Photo: University of Cambridge biomimicks natural mother of pearl coating found on mollusks.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have successfully biomimicked the natural production of nacre (mother of pearl), the iridescent coating found on the inside of some mollusks and on the outer coating of pearls. It has both optical iridescence and mechanical toughness.

Nacre consists of an ordered multilayer structure of crystalline calcium carbonate platelets separated by porous organic layers. The crystallized calcium carbonate, which is the primary component of nacre, lets each layer absorb into surfaces, forming layers of well-defined thickness.

To mimic a nacre layer, researchers use a proprietary mixture of ions and organic film. The materials used to make the nacre are relatively cheap which could make for an alternative to costly coating applications for those debating using costly composites.

 More information: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/scientists-create-artificial-mother-of-pearl/