Taking a bite from biomimetics

Researchers at Northwestern University have used atom-probe tomography (APT) to take a bite out of the hybrid, organic-inorganic dental structure of the chiton mollusc, Chaetopleura apiculata, which is renowned for its ability to scrape algae from rock. The organism's teeth are outstandingly wear resistant and resilient to fracture. APT quantitatively revealed that the organic fibers, each, also contain either sodium or magnesium ions. However, the APT showed that the fibers were surprisingly heterogeneous, having a previously unsuspected structural hierarchy. This detailed view made possible with APT suggests a possible growth mechanism in which the organism modulates the final chemistry on the nano level.