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Magnetite, perfect for photovoltaics and batteries


If from the spider silk a conductor more performing than silicon, aluminum and pure iron, come on teeth of a sea snail substantial improvements could be made to the photovoltaic and energy storage devices.

There snail in question is not even that rare, it commonly lives along the coasts of North America, from California to Alaska; its scientific name is Stellar Cryptochiton, is a chiton and is famous for its particularly strong teeth. THE teeth of the chiton are famous for their resistance but even more for the composition material: if human teeth are composed of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals, the teeth of the chiton are given by magnetite, the mineral with the highest iron content and with the most intense magnetic properties existing in nature.

The mouthparts of Stellar Cruptochiton is composed of the so-called radula, a structure that contains 70-80 parallel rows of teeth. This structure has thus evolved because snails, in order to feed themselves, have to grind the rock in order to reach and incorporate the algae that grow inside them. When old teeth wear out, the radula comes equipped with new magnetite.

David Kisailus, an expert in chemical and environmental engineering, studied i chitons for five years. Kisailus began his research to gain new knowledge about shockproof materials and abrasive phenomena. David Kisailus, studying the production system of the magnetite, hopes to be able to recreate in vitro a cost-effective nanomaterial that has the same characteristics as snail teeth.

The snail tooth manufacturing process takes place at room temperature, without the need to apply energy to the system. Kisailus, using this model is driving the growth of minerals used in solar cells and in lithium batteries. With the production of this "special material“, The solar cells they may be able to capture a higher percentage of sunlight and convert it into electricity more efficiently, just as lithium batteries could cut charging times in half.


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