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Nature's toughest substances decoded

How a material breaks may be the most important property to consider when designing layered composites that mimic those found in nature. A new method decodes the interactions between materials and the structures they form and can help maximize their strength, toughness, stiffness and fracture strain. Scientists and engineers have worked for years to replicate the light, tough, strong and stiff properties of natural materials, either with hard and soft components or combinations of different platelet types. After 400 computer simulations of platelet-matrix composite materials like mother-of-pearl, researchers developed a design map to help with the synthesis of staggered composites for applications at any scale, from microelectronics to cars to spacecraft, where lightweight, multifunctional structural composites are key.

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