Home > Engineering, Research, Technology > Aircraft design to be helped by tooth enamel

Aircraft design to be helped by tooth enamel

Scientists have for decades wondered how our teeth withstand such an enormous amount of pressure over many years, when tooth enamel is only about as strong as glass. A new study by Herzl Chai of Tel Aviv University and colleagues suggests that this revolutionary quality of teeth can be used to make airplanes of the future.

The study shows that it is the highly sophisticated structure of our teeth that keeps them in one piece. “Teeth are made from an extremely sophisticated composite material which reacts in an extraordinary way under pressure,” says Chai.

The automotive and aviation industries already use sophisticated materials to prevent break-up on impact. For example, airplane bodies are made from composite materials — layers of glass or carbon fibers — held together by a brittle matrix.

In teeth, though, fibers aren’t arranged in a grid, but are “wavy” in structure. There are hierarchies of fibers and matrices arranged in several layers, unlike the single-thickness layers used in aircrafts, Eurekalert reported.

Under mechanical pressure, this architecture presents no clear path for the release of stress. As Chai puts it, tooth fractures “have a hard time deciding which way to go,” making the tooth more resistant to cracking apart.

Chai, himself an aerospace engineer, suggests that if engineers can incorporate tooth enamel’s micro-cracking mechanism and capacity to heal, lighter and stronger aircraft can be developed.”

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