Snail teeth, solar cells and batteries, and better dental drill bits

A university assistant professor has found that the teeth of a marine snail found off the coast of California can be used to create less costly and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. Understanding the formation and properties of the chiton teeth could help to create better design parameters for better oil drills and dental drill bits in the future.

Jan 31st, 2013

An assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering, David Kisailus, from the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering, has discovered a use for the teeth of a marine snail found off the coast of California — to create less expensive and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. But there's more.

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Kisailus' paper, published on January 16 in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, details the growth of the gumboot chiton. The paper was co-authored by several of his current and former students and scientists at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY.

In Merriam-Webster, chiton is defined as any of a class (Polyplacophora) of elongated bilaterally symmetrical marine mollusks with a dorsal shell of calcareous plates. The gumboot chiton is the largest species of chiton in the world, growing up to 30 cm in length, and its eight plates are covered by thick, leathery, brick-red flesh so we cannot see them. (OceanLink)

Chiton teeth contain the hardest biomineral known on Earth, magnetite, which is the key mineral that not only makes the tooth hard, but also magnetic. In his most recent paper, Kisailus set out to determine how the hard and magnetic outer region of the tooth forms.

While there are many possible benefits to this new knowledge, understanding the formation and properties of the chiton teeth could help to create enhanced design parameters for better oil drills and dental drill bits.

Read more in the original article from ScienceDaily.

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