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How are abalone shells made?
Question Date: 2013-02-20
Answer 1:

An abalone makes its shell in layers. The abalone grows a layer of a specific kind of protein, and then a calcium carbonate mineral called 'aragonite' crystallizes on the protein layer, until it is much thicker than the protein layer, and then there's another protein layer, and then another layer of the mineral, aragonite, The protein is like a glue that holds the aragonite mineral crystal layers together

When one looks at the broken edge of an abalone shell in a powerful electron microscope, one sees tall stacks of flat aragonite crystal layers all packed next to each other, with thin spaces between the aragonite layers where the protein is.

The protein is both a glue and a pattern for getting the first layers of calcium carbonate to pack together so that they make aragonite crystal and not some other kind of crystal that calcium carbonate can make.

Some of these discoveries were made by scientists at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Scientists like to discover how things in nature are made, and then scientists and engineers get good ideas about how we can make stronger materials for our use in things like building better bridges and fixing broken teeth.

Keep asking questions! Best wishes,

Answer 2:

An abalone is a kind of snail, and makes its shell in the same way that other snails do. The shell is made of calcium carbonate, CaC3, and is secreted from the mantle, the muscular layer of tissue that covers the body of a mollusk.

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