Researchers find rare mineral inside the teeth of Chiton

Chitons of the Polyplacophora class are flattened, symmetric to the bilateral. These species exist all across the world, from frigid to tropical waters. Their teeth are one of nature’s most difficult to break materials. They have to be attached to a tongue-like and soft radula, that scraps algae and other food through rocks. Many researchers and scientists all over the world have been fascinated by the chition for a very long time, due to the properties of their teeth beings hard and unbreakable my most things in nature. They live a silent live and not many people are aware about their existence as they are marine animals. It’s intriguing to see how Chiton can address the engineering difficulty by connecting the super strong tooth to a soft underlying structure, as mechanical constructions are only as good as their weakest link. This remains an important problem in modern manufacture, so we understand how this occurs in nature, which had some hundred million years to develop in creatures such as chiton. Cryptochiton stelleri is chitons scientific name, but many people accustomed to it call it the “floating meatloaf” as it is a reddish-brown organisms as big as our regular meatloaf, which floats around in water. Researchers have identified a santabarbarite mineral, a long, hollow canal that connects the teeth head with the flexible radula membrane, scattered throughout the top stylus of the chiton. Scientists think the stylus is like a part in a man’s tooth that joins our tooth’s cusp with our jaw. It is a hard material consisting of very small nanoparticles in a fibrous matrix consisting of biomacromolecules, similar to the bones in our body. C. stelleri is the biggest chiton in the world with a length of about 35 centimetres. The radula, which he uses to rub algae off rocks, is armed with several decades of teeth on a slender, flexible, languid appendage called a radula. These teeth are covered in magnetite, the most hard and stiffest biomineral ever known: it is not just as hard as human enamel and mollusc shells but is three times more tougher. These nanoparticles help the teeth vary in hardness and steadiness by a minimum of two times the usual width for human hair, across a few hundred micrometres. These changes allow the hard and soft components of the body of the mollusc to be bridged. With santabarbaraite already detected in a single creature, researchers recommend to hunt for santabarbaraite in insect cuticles and microorganisms sensing magnetic fields.

Rare Mineral Discovered in a Living Organism for the First Time

So how do we make an exact similar product like this material? Well 3D printing attempts are being made to ink this material so that we can visualise it and use it more effectively and potentially discover something useful. The scientific experts  printed 3D solid, light materials with a variety of hardness and stiffness with nanoparticles of a mineral similar to santabarbaraite. These compounds can be used in soft robotics involving the marriage of soft and hard components in bots which can remove difficulties from traditional robots because of rigid components. The development of an iron- and phosphate-ion reactive ink combined in a Chitin-based biopolymer is being performed. With the form of nanoparticles in the biopolymer, they become stronger and viscous. This combination can then be utilised for printing effortlessly. After drying in air the final material is hard and rigid. We can keep on learning from the stylus of the chiton and develop materials, which unite ultra-hard teeth with a delicate radula.