Lungfish’s tooth enamel can help make lighter vehicles

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SYDNEY - The tooth enamel of lungfish and garfish could help create a new material to make lighter aircraft or vehicles.

Professor John Barry, physicist from Queensland University of Technology, is on the hunt for new materials that will enable technological advances.

“Compared with 60 years ago, cars of today have much better handling, acceleration and braking and safety features - thanks to the discovery of new materials along the way,” Barry added, according to a Queensland statement.

Because of a need for increasing performance, materials are being pushed to the limit which triggers catastrophic failure.

“Teeth in different animals have been adapted or ‘engineered’ for various purposes. As engineering materials, teeth are composite materials with properties which are much superior to any existing synthetic composite,” he said.

“We started with lungfish because they are an ancient animal and we thought their tooth structure would be much simpler than modern animals that have undergone many more evolutionary changes.”

“We were surprised to find the lungfish has a complex tooth microstructure - not simple at all. We are also studying garfish because they have hardwearing teeth and we want to know how they manage that,” he said.

Prof Barry said that by copying some of the structures in teeth, it should be possible to make composites which could be used more widely in cars and aircraft, for example.

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