Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 March 2011
The teeth of the marine mollusk Acanthopleura hirtosa are an excellent example of a complex, organic, matrix-mediated biomineral, with the fully mineralized teeth comprising layers of iron oxide and iron oxyhydroxide minerals around a calcium apatite core. To investigate the relationship between the various mineral layers and the organic matrix fibers on which they grew, sections have been prepared from specific features in the teeth at controlled orientations using focused ion beam processing. Compositional and microstructural details of heterophase interfaces, and the fate of the organic matrix fibers within the mineral layers, can then be analyzed by a range of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques. Energy-filtered TEM highlights the interlocking nature of the various mineral phases, while high-angle annular dark-field scanning TEM imaging demonstrates that the organic matrix continues to exist in the fully mineralized teeth. These new insights into the structure of this complex biomaterial are an important step in understanding the relationship between its structural and physical properties and may help explain its high strength and crack-resistance behavior.
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