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Structure and mechanics of interfaces in biological materials

Abstract

Hard biological materials — for example, seashells, bone or wood — fulfil critical structural functions and display unique and attractive combinations of stiffness, strength and toughness, owing to their intricate architectures, which are organized over several length scales. The size, shape and arrangement of the ‘building blocks’ of which these materials are made are essential for defining their properties and their exceptional performance, but there is growing evidence that their deformation and toughness are also largely governed by the interfaces that join these building blocks. These interfaces channel nonlinear deformations and deflect cracks into configurations in which propagation is more difficult. In this Review, we discuss comparatively the composition, structure and mechanics of a set of representative biological interfaces in nacre, bone and wood, and show that these interfaces possess unusual mechanical characteristics, which can encourage the development of advanced bioinspired composites. Finally, we highlight recent examples of synthetic materials inspired from the mechanics and architecture of natural interfaces.

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Figure 1: The structure, deformation and interfaces of nacre.
Figure 2: Mechanical tests on the interfaces in nacre.
Figure 3: The building blocks and interfaces of bone.
Figure 4: The mechanics of the interfaces within bone.
Figure 5: The structure and mechanics of wood.
Figure 6: The structure and mechanics of the interfaces between cellulose fibrils.
Figure 7: A material properties chart.
Figure 8: Synthetic materials based on the architectures and interfaces of biological materials.

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Acknowledgements

Z.Y. was partially supported by a McGill Engineering Doctoral Award from the Faculty of Engineering at McGill University.

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Barthelat, F., Yin, Z. & Buehler, M. Structure and mechanics of interfaces in biological materials. Nat Rev Mater 1, 16007 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/natrevmats.2016.7

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