Scientists looking to nature for inspiration have long known that the whole of a structure is often greater than the parts. In bones, for instance, soft proteins and stiff but brittle minerals join in a complex matrix that distributes stresses to absorb impacts.
But it isn’t very easy for those knocking off nature’s best tricks to reproduce something like bone because the complex positioning of the different materials has been impossibly difficult to mimic. The hierarchical layering of soft collagen proteins with hard hydroxyapatite mineral is what gives the naturally occurring composite its great load-bearing qualities.
Now, though, an MIT team has revealed that they’ve gotten much closer.