A recent study conducted at the University of California has shown how teeth-growing techniques of marine snails can be applied to the solar industry, helping to create improved solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. The findings show that gumboot chitons – a variety of large marine snails – use conveyer belt-like magnetic teeth to grasp algae on rocks. This biomineralization process could help grow minerals used in solar cells and batteries and also make harder, abrasion and impact-resistant materials.

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David Kisailus, assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside started studying chitons five years ago, with particular focus on its specific teeth-forming process. The chiton teeth contain magnetite, the hardest mineral on Earth. Not only does the mineral make teeth hard but also gives them magnetic properties. Detailed by Kisailus, this process revealed a three-step mineralization scenario: hydrated iron oxide crystals nucleate on an organic template, convert to magnetite, particles of which grow along organics fibers within the chiton’s mouth.

“Incredibly, all of this occurs at room temperature and under environmentally benign conditions,” Kisailus said. “This makes it appealing to utilize similar strategies to make nanomaterials in a cost-effective manner.”

By using biomineralization to grow minerals and control the crystal size, shape and orientation of nanomaterials, Kisailus will attempt to create solar cells that can capture a larger amount of sunlight and generate more electricity. The same technology, applied to the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, could significantly reduce the amount of time necessary for recharging.

Via Science Daily

Lead Photo via University of California Riverside