American Chemical Society
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Crystallographic Interdigitation in Oyster Shell Folia Enhances Material Strength

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-05-21, 00:00 authored by Yuan Meng, Susan C. Fitzer, Peter Chung, Chaoyi Li, Vengatesen Thiyagarajan, Maggie Cusack
Shells of oyster species belonging to the genus Crassostrea have similar shell microstructural features comprising well-ordered calcite folia. However, the mechanical strengths of folia differ dramatically between closely related species. For example, the calcareous shells of the Hong Kong oyster Crassostrea hongkongensis are stronger than those of its closest relative, the Portuguese oyster, Crassostrea angulata. Specifically, after removal of organic content, the folia of C. hongkongensis are 200% tougher and able to withstand a 100% higher crushing force than that of C. angulata. Detailed analyses of shell structural and mechanical features support the hypothesis that crystallographic interdigitations confer elevated mechanical strength in C. hongkongensis oyster shells compared to C. angulata shells. Consequently, the folia of C. hongkongensis are structurally equipped to withstand a higher external load compared to C. angulata. The observed relationships between oyster shell structure, crystallography, and mechanical properties provided an insightful context in which to consider the likely fate of these two species in future climate change scenarios. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary approach developed in this study through integrating electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) data into finite element analysis (FEA) could be applied to other biomineral systems to investigate the relationship between crystallography and mechanical behavior.