Washington Post reveals the natural substance that beats spider silk for toughness, and diamonds for hardness – and it’s limpet teeth:
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.
He found that the material had a strength of 5 gigapascals, about five times the strength of most spider silks.
“People are always trying to find the next strongest thing, but spider silk has been the winner for quite a few years now,” Barber told the BBC. “So we were quite happy that the limpet teeth exceeded that.”
Their secret is in the size of their fibers, which are 1/100th the diameter of a human hair. The ultra-thin filaments avoid the holes and defects that plague larger strands — including man-made carbon fibers — meaning any structure they compose is also flawless, regardless of how big it gets.