Scientists developed synthetic tooth enamel that could pave the way for tougher airplanes in the future

The structural and electronic components of an airplane must withstand constant stress and unavoidable vibrations without cracking. These vibrations cause the rigid structures to age and crack quickly.  In order to cope up with such vibrations and mechanical stress. Researchers of the university of Michigan have come with a solution. They found that, if they design the structural components similar to tooth enamel they can withstand mechanical stress without cracking.

Scientists developed Synthetic tooth enamel that could pave the way for tougher airplanes in the future

To trace out such compact material researchers turned their attention to nature. They examined many structures in animals that can withstand vibrations and shocks like bones, shells, carapaces and teeth. They found that the structures varied from species to species.

However, they came across tooth enamel and found that the structure of enamel was similar across species from millions of years. They studied the structure of enamel using an electron microscope. Further, the enamel cannot be repaired and had to last the lifetime of tooth withstanding the constant vibrations and stress without cracking.

Structure of Enamel



Enamel is made up of stiff crystalline pillar surrounded by a softer matrix of proteins.This structure is repeated for several layers and varies based on the purpose of the tooth. When the tooth is subjected to pressure the pillars to bend and transfer the energy to surrounding matrix and thereby protects the pillars from breaking.

Prof. Nicholas Kotov along with postdoctoral researcher Bongjun Yeom has synthesized the artificial tooth by growing zinc oxide nanowires on a chip (similar to pillars). Then they layered two layers of polymers over the nanowires that flowed between the wires (equal to proteins) and by applying heat hardened the polymer materials, before adding next layer.  
In this way, they added several coats of polymers and it took them around 40 coats to make a layer of synthetic enamel measuring one-thousandth of a millimeter thick of enamel like structure. They repeated the whole process 20 times and the end product has the similar strength as the enamel and is able to withstand damage due to vibrations. Professor Kota hopes to see the material find application in aerospace and electronics.



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