Lithium-Ion batteries, solar cells, aircraft frames, and abrasion-resistant clothing might all get a huge boost soon because of the teeth of the monstrosity you see above. What you are attempting to avoid looking at is the Gumboot Chiton, and its two rows of rock-crunching teeth may just hold the solution to many of our current technological limitations. So just how could a creature described as “a wandering meatloaf” help all these desperate industries?
The answer is in how the Chiton quickly grows its magnetite-tipped teeth.
Magnetite is the hardest biomineral on Earth, but that isn’t enough to keep the Chiton’s teeth from wearing down after scrapping ocean rocks for their accumulated algae. The creature’s solution is to constantly and rapidly grow new teeth, and that process is what Assistant Professor David Kisailus of the University of California, Riverside is interested in. The speed at which the teeth are grown, and the conditions that the Gumboot grows its teeth in puts our current industrial processes to shame.
According to the study, hydrated iron-oxide (ferrihydrite) crystals first nucleate on a fiber-like chitinous (complex sugar) organic template. These nanocrystalline ferrihydrite particles convert to a magnetic iron oxide (magnetite) through a solid-state transformation. Finally, the magnetite particles grow along these organic fibers, yielding parallel rods within the Chiton’s mature teeth that make them so hard and tough.
At the moment we employ high temperatures and “non-benign conditions” to grow the minerals used in solar cells and li-ion batteries. By removing these conditions the scientists at UC hope to make nanomaterials in a more cost-effective manner as well as improving the efficiency of both applications. The solar cells will be able to capture a greater percentage of sunlight and convert it to electricity more efficiently, and the Li-Ion batteries could require significantly less time to recharge.
Source: Wards Auto