The Strongest Mineral on Earth Found Along the Sea

Geothite by Wiki Commons.

For those working in the lapidary arts, we’ve been dazzled by the strength of the minerals and gems we find. The Washington Post announces there is something in nature stronger than diamonds and steel, and unbreakable by bullets.

Currently, the strongest natural material known is the silk of a spider. With this new research, your next tidal pool adventure along the Pacific Northwest coastline might come with a new perspective, and a new respect.

In a study set to come out this month in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, British researchers announced that the teeth of shelled, aquatic creatures called limpets are the strongest biological material on Earth, overtaking the previous record-holder, spider silk.

The teeth, which are so small they must be examined with a microscope, are composed of very thin, tightly-packed fibers containing a hard mineral called goethite. Limpets use them to scrape food off of rocks, but lead author Asa Barber said humans can adapt the technology to build better planes, boats and dental fillings.

Testing found the mineral material in the snail-like creatures commonly found along tidal pool areas to be nearly flawless in their very thin filaments, reinforcing the structural components, and have a strength of 5 gigapascals, five times that of most spider silks.

The teeth also bested several man-made materials, including Kevlar, a synthetic fiber used to make bulletproof vests and puncture-proof tires. The amount of weight it can withstand, Barber told the BBC, can be compared to a strand of spaghetti used to hold up more than 3,300 pounds, the weight of an adult female hippopotamus.

For information on geothite, see:

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