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Sea Shell Physics

Recent research has been directed towards investigating the mechanical properties of sea shells. These are nanocomposites comprising of ~99% calcium carbonate within an organic matrix. Shells have been shown to have excellent strength and fracture toughness properties compared to their components. The behaviour of these materials in tough erosive environments is of particular interest and we are using MIJA and other erosion equipment to quantify the different failure mechanisms involved. Prototype shell 'mimics' are expensive and small scale, so it is important to have reliable, reproducible testing methods which enable quantitative measurements to be made.

High speed water drop impact on Conch shell - note the asymmetry.Total diameter of site approx. 150 microns