Sea urchin spines are made mostly of calcite, but the spines are much more durable than this raw material alone. The reason for their strength is the way that nature optimises materials using a brick wall-style architecture. A research team headed by Professor Helmut Cölfen successfully synthesised cement at the nano-level according to this “brick and mortar” principle. During this process, macro-molecules were identified that take on the function of mortar, affixing the crystalline blocks to each other on the nano-scale, with the blocks assembling themselves in an ordered manner. The aim is to make cement more durable. The study’s results are published in the 1 December 2017 issue of Science Advances.
Based on the nanostructure of the sea urchin spines, team develops cement that is significantly more fracture-resistant