Limpet Teeth Are Nature's Strongest Material

So long, spider silk

Limpet Teeth
Teeth barely longer than the diameter of a human hair allow limpets to scrape food from rocks.Image Courtesy of A. Barber, University of Portsmouth and N. Pugno, University of Trento

Spider silk had a good run as nature's strongest material. But recently, limpet teeth--made of mineral nanofibers--were found to be up to five times stronger. Asa Barber, an engineering professor at the University of Portsmouth in England, measured the stretching force needed to break the aquatic snail's teeth and says they're comparable to man-made carbon fiber, only more flexible. "We can take these features we see in nature into the lab," he says, "to help drive better designs for planes and cars."

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Popular Science.