We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Shining, Shimmering, Splendid: Scientists Make Mother-of-Pearl in the Lab

By Veronique Greenwood
Jul 27, 2012 8:21 PMNov 20, 2019 12:37 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Mother-of-pearl is surprisingly difficult to mimic. Cheap plastic watch faces don't count---they may look like the inside of a seashell, but real mother-of-pearl, or nacre, to give its scientific name, is made of thousands of layers of calcium carbonate, with an intricate, interlocking crystal structure. Because of that, it is phenomenally tough, and engineers would like to be able to use it as an industrial coating. Recently, a team of scientists devised a way to make microscopic layers of calcium carbonate accrete into a very similar crystal structure

, mimicking the process that takes place in shellfish. You can see the result above: a sheet of material with the sheen and the strength of real mother-of-pearl.

Image courtesy of Nature Communications

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.