An assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering is using the teeth of a marine snail found off the coast of California to create less costly and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries.
David Kisailus, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering, uses nature as inspiration to design next-generation engineering products and materials. Kisailus began studying chitons five years ago because he was interested in abrasion and impact-resistant materials. He has previously determined that the 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.
While Kisailus is focused on solar cells and lithium-ion batteries, the same techniques could be used to develop everything from materials for car and airplane frames to abrasion-resistant clothing. In addition, understanding the formation and properties of the chiton teeth could help to create better design parameters for better oil drills and dental drill bits.
Also: Learn about methods to protect lithium-ion cells.