Mankind has learned to combine strength and flexibility by making composite materials. We put steel bars in concrete and fibreglass into plastics. But we weren’t the first to do that. A limpet is able to cling to rocks using the suction of a muscular foot and the adhesiveness of mucous. As it moves slowly along its tongue (radula) can scrape algae off the rocks to use as food. Its tongue is covered with tiny teeth made of the strongest biological material known – geothite. It uses iron oxide and hydroxide to form geothite whose fibres are 1000 times thinner than the glass fibres in fibreglass. This microscopic size helps to defy cracks or flaws in the teeth.
Professor A. Barber, in the Journal of Royal Science, Feb. 18, 2015, was moved to write this comment.
“Biology is a great source of inspiration as an engineer. These (limpet) teeth are made up of very small fibres, put together in a particular way and we should be thinking of making our own structures following the same design principles.”