About the Project
In this project, we will look to nature for inspiration by selecting a number of different species whose enamel has an apatite chemistry and is highly adapted for strength and hardness. We will use these to explore how the atomic-scale chemistry of the enamel can affect changes at the larger scales and ultimately, how it becomes optimized for function. Across different animal species the hydroxyapatite component varies in both its chemical composition and crystalline structure, e.g. fibres, crystallites, amorphous regions. An extreme example of crystal chemistry adaption for specialized function is that of North American beavers, which have high levels of iron in their enamel, and is one reason for their extremely strong teeth adapted for the destruction of trees and vegetation. Another example of interest is that of shark enamel, which is composed entirely of fluorapatite, at fluoride concentrations much higher than that of the seawater. In this project we will use a combination of first principles modelling and advanced chemical and multiscale structural characterization of enamel to understand the chemistry and structure of the tooth enamel from a range of species, specifically, human, beaver and shark. We will examine the specific mineral chemistry of each species, and endeavor to understand the interactions of this mineral component with the embedded organic fraction. This will allow us to understand this complex material and build a model to inform in vitro creation of enamel-like biomimetic materials for complex engineering purposes, e.g. protective coatings, as well as biomaterials for applications in dentistry and orthopaedics.
2. Siddiqui, S. et al, Recovery of Crystallographic Texture in Remineralized Dental Enamel, PLOS ONE, 9 (10), e108879
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