The research in biological hard tissues offers lessons for biomimetic (structure and processing) strategies, such as for the synthesis of hierarchical architectures tailored for specific engineering applications. These biocomposites, i.e., biogenic materials in which the major phase is an inorganic component associated with macromolecules (proteins and polysaccharides), include bones, dentin, sea-urchin skeletal units, bacterial and algal particles and molluscan shells. Here, a summary is given from a recent TEM study of the interfacial region of nacreous and prismatic sections of red abalone shell to understand the morphological and crystallographic correlations across this transition region.
Many mollusk species have shells made of CaCO3 in various architectures that have evolved under different ecological conditions to produce structures that best protect the organism. The shells of many species contain both aragonite (orthorhombic, Pmnc) and calcite (Rhombohedral, R3m). In red abalone (Haliotis rufescens), the outer section, prismatic (P), is composed of columnar crystallites of calcite (1-5 μm base, 5-10 μm height), and the inner section, nacre (N), is composed of pseudo-hexagonal platelets of aragonite (side 2-5 μm), stacked as 0.25 μm layers, separated by a few nm-thick organic layer (Fig. 1).