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Iron-clad fibers: a metal-based biological strategy for hard flexible coatings
Harrington, M.J.; Masic, A.; Holten-Andersen, N.; Waite, J.H.; Fratzl, P. (2010). Iron-clad fibers: a metal-based biological strategy for hard flexible coatings. Science (Wash.) 328(5975): 216-220.
In: Science (Washington). American Association for the Advancement of Science: New York, N.Y. ISSN 0036-8075, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Harrington, M.J.
  • Masic, A.
  • Holten-Andersen, N.
  • Waite, J.H.
  • Fratzl, P.

    The extensible byssal threads of marine mussels are shielded from abrasion in wave-swept habitats by an outer cuticle that is largely proteinaceous and approximately fivefold harder than the thread core. Threads from several species exhibit granular cuticles containing a protein that is rich in the catecholic amino acid 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (dopa) as well as inorganic ions, notably Fe3+. Granular cuticles exhibit a remarkable combination of high hardness and high extensibility. We explored byssus cuticle chemistry by means of in situ resonance Raman spectroscopy and demonstrated that the cuticle is a polymeric scaffold stabilized by catecholato-iron chelate complexes having an unusual clustered distribution. Consistent with byssal cuticle chemistry and mechanics, we present a model in which dense cross-linking in the granules provides hardness, whereas the less cross-linked matrix provides extensibility.

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