Transmission electron microscopy observation of nanoscale deformation structures in nacre


The mechanical performance of nacre in seashells is generally described in terms of mesoscale mechanisms between mineral plates within the organic polymer matrix. However, recent work has reported nanostructures and organic material within individual plates and associated deformation mechanisms. In this work, we further investigated the nanoscale structure and mechanical behavior within individual plates of nacre by using two methods to induce fracture of plates: microindentation with focused ion beam preparation and ultramicrotomy. Using transmission electron microscopy, we observed deformation nanostructures and organic matrix within plates and identified nanoscale mechanisms, such as separation, shear, and matrix crack bridging.

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The authors thank K. Tamura and T. Kimoto for technical assistance and FEI Company for carrying out FIB sample preparation. This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (No. 16760555).

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Correspondence to Taro Sumitomo.

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Sumitomo, T., Kakisawa, H., Owaki, Y. et al. Transmission electron microscopy observation of nanoscale deformation structures in nacre. Journal of Materials Research 23, 3213–3221 (2008).

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