Hydration-induced nano- to micro-scale self-recovery of the tooth enamel of the giant panda

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

18 Scopus Citations
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Author(s)

  • Zengqian Liu
  • Zhaoyong Weng
  • Zhao-Feng Zhai
  • Nan Huang
  • Zhen-Jun Zhang
  • Jun Tan
  • Chuanbin Jiang
  • Da Jiao
  • Guoqi Tan
  • Jian Zhang
  • Xin Jiang
  • Zhefeng Zhang

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-277
Journal / PublicationActa Biomaterialia
Volume81
Online published28 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Abstract

The tooth enamel of vertebrates comprises a hyper-mineralized bioceramic, but is distinguished by an exceptional durability to resist impact and wear throughout the lifetime of organisms; however, enamels exhibit a low resistance to the initiation of large-scale cracks comparable to that of geological minerals based on fracture mechanics. Here we reveal that the tooth enamel, specifically from the giant panda, is capable of developing durability through counteracting the early stage of damage by partially recovering its innate geometry and structure at nano- to micro- length-scales autonomously. Such an attribute results essentially from the unique architecture of tooth enamel, specifically the vertical alignment of nano-scale mineral fibers and micro-scale prisms within a water-responsive organic-rich matrix, and can lead to a decrease in the dimension of indent damage in enamel introduced by indentation. Hydration plays an effective role in promoting the recovery process and improving the indentation fracture toughness of enamel (by ∼73%), at a minor cost of micro-hardness (by ∼5%), as compared to the dehydrated state. The nano-scale mechanisms that are responsible for the recovery deformation, specifically the reorientation and rearrangement of mineral fragments and the inter- and intra-prismatic sliding between constituents that are closely related to the viscoelasticity of organic matrix, are examined and analyzed with respect to the structure of tooth enamel. Our study sheds new light on the strategies underlying Nature's design of durable ceramics which could be translated into man-made systems in developing high-performance ceramic materials.
Statement of Significance
Tooth enamel plays a critical role in the function of teeth by providing a hard surface layer to resist wear/impact throughout the lifetime of organisms; however, such enamel exhibits a remarkably low resistance to the initiation of large-scale cracks, of hundreds of micrometers or more, comparable to that of geological minerals. Here we reveal that tooth enamel, specifically that of the giant panda, is capable of partially recovering its geometry and structure to counteract the early stages of damage at nano- to micro-scale dimensions autonomously. Such an attribute results essentially from the architecture of enamel but is markedly enhanced by hydration. Our work discerns a series of mechanisms that lead to the deformation and recovery of enamel and identifies a unique source of durability in the enamel to accomplish this function. The ingenious design of tooth enamel may inspire the development of new durable ceramic materials in man-made systems.

Research Area(s)

  • Tooth enamel, Self-recovery, Durability, Hydration, Bioinspiration

Citation Format(s)

Hydration-induced nano- to micro-scale self-recovery of the tooth enamel of the giant panda. / Liu, Zengqian; Weng, Zhaoyong; Zhai, Zhao-Feng et al.
In: Acta Biomaterialia, Vol. 81, 11.2018, p. 267-277.

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review