Photo: ‘Abalone shell’ by Paxson Woelber


Stop cracks from propagating    

Abalone shells – Haliotis – are made of thousands of layers of hard discs made from calcium carbonate, connected with a flexible mortar. This mortar is a protein adhesive that binds to the top and bottom surfaces of the calcium carbonate tiles. This adhesive is strong enough to hold layers firmly together, but weak enough to permit them to slip apart, hence, absorbing the energy of a heavy blow in the process. This gives abalone shells an incredible resistance to crack propagation. Nature here has inspired fracture-resistant ceramics that can retain a high elasticity under loads.

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