Man vs. Mussle

The mussel has proven to be an incredible materials engineer. Marine mussels all over the world stand up to punishing waves, blasting sand, and the curious beachcomber with a taste for bivalves. The mussel is equipped with a bag of engineering tricks; gradient structures, self -healing threads, and is able to produce these materials at ambient temperature, pressure, and pH. So far humans can’t come close to engineering these systems in the detail the mussel achieves every day. Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have shown....that their unique design goes all the way down to the molecular level (now that’s nanotechnology). On top of this, the materials are made with what’s available on hand, without harsh chemicals or toxic byproducts. It sounds too good to be true. However, the mysteries deepen the more you look. There are reports that the mussels threads contain piezo electric properties. Who knows what the next discovery will be, or how it might change the way look at life around us. The researchers hope that by unlocking the biochemical secrets that make the mussel so outrageously successful, we may be able to apply these unique materials and design processes for a more sustainable and tasty future. [by T. McGee]