Snail's teeth could help develop future battery tech--no, really

Antony Ingram
15 March 2013




MORE AT HIGH GEAR MEDIA

We often cover the progress of battery technologies here on Green Car Reports, and while always of interest, few new discoveries are really that surprising.

The potential of a biomineral found in the teeth of a marine snail isn't one of those unsurprising discoveries.

Studies at the University of California, Riverside, suggest future batteries and solar cells could use materials formed in a process found in the gumboot chiton snail, reports Wards Auto.

The large sea snail features a conveyor belt-like arrangement of teeth in its mouth, used to rasp algae from rocks on the sea bed. Grinding away at rocks wears the teeth down, but they're constantly replaced by further rows. Even so, the teeth are very hardy--containing the hardest-known biomineral, magnetite. As its name suggests, this substance is also magnetic.

Assistant Professor at the university, David Kisailus, has studied chitons for many years and says he has discovered how this hard, magnetic layer of teeth forms--the full details of which are revealed in the Advanced Functional Materials journal.

According to Wards, the process is as follows:

"Hydrated iron-oxide (ferrihydrite) crystals first nucleate on a fiber-like chitinous (complex sugar) organic template. These nanocrystalline ferrihydrite particles convert to a magnetic iron oxide (magnetite) through a solid-state transformation."

The particles grow along the organic fibers, forming parallel rods within the teeth that make them as hard as they are.

Sounds complex, but the upside to this process is that it takes place at room temperature and in what Kisailus describes as "benign environmental conditions".

To simplify that further, it means a similar process could be used to grow minerals used in lithium-ion batteries and in solar cells, without the same intensive energy normally required. Reduce the heat needed to form certain nanocrystals, and you reduce both energy use and cost.

Cost is key for both battery and solar cell production, but there are other benefits too.

Using this growing process used by the snail, the size and shape of nanomaterials could be used to improve a battery's energy storage and recharging rates, and capture sunlight more efficiently in solar cells.

This potential hasn't yet been tested, but it shows that battery advancements could come from the most unlikely of places.

What to read next

High Interest Payday Loans are Ancient History

$5,000 for $151/mo, 5.99% APR, 3 yr repayment, $0 down payment. Free, no obligation quotes. Get up to 5 offers in minutes. Start loan request now.

Hilton HHonors™ Card

Get 75,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points! Terms Apply. Offer ends 5/4

Drivers Born Between 1953 And 1983 Must Read This

United States drivers who drive less than 50mi/day will be surprised. If you pay more than $50/month for auto insurance, you better read this...

Compare rates. Save big.

We'll compare rates so you have more time for important things… like cats.

Surprise for Home Owners in 2016

The government has announced that this program will expire in 2016 and is making a final push urging homeowners to take advantage of this program.

Install ADT for $9/Week & Get Free Security Camera

Monitor your home with ADT for only $9 per week including a free home security camera system (an $850 value). Get a free quote! ADT Authorized Dealer