Not tough as nails, tough as oyster shells

Anomia ephippium by Jan Johan ter Poorten on Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license.

Oyster shells (Jan Johan ter Poorten/Wikimedia Commons)

What can take a hit (or more) that would shatter anything made at the hands of man?

Thomas Sumner reports on ScienceShots:

When forcefully jabbed with a diamond, the windowpane oyster shell resists shattering by dispersing 10 times more impact energy than raw calcite, the team reports online today in Nature Materials. Peeking at the shell’s crystal structure using an electron microscope, the researchers discovered the oyster’s secret. When stressed, the shell’s crystal structure twists symmetrically, causing an atomic reorganization that forms a boundary quarantining any fractures that might form (pictured). This process, called deformation twinning, dissipates energy horizontally and allows the shell to survive multiple hits. Additionally, sheets of stretchy organic material between the layers of calcite prevent cracks from spreading vertically between layers.

Materials that mimic the windowpane shell’s endurance and transparency (did I mention it was transparent?) could make better windshields and maybe even armor you could see through.

Read more here.


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