I was sure my series on Limestone was finished with my folded mountain articles, but then I ran into an article on Mother of Pearl from Creation Revolution. Being fond of pearls, I checked it out and discovered that Calcium Carbonate, the stuff Limestone is made of, is the main ingredient in them!
Nacre [neigh–kur], is the “official” name for Mother of Pearl which is the coating some mollusks like oysters make. When I first started studying all the forms of Limestone, I learned that most of these rocks hav bits of sea shells and some are made completely from shells like Chalk. So I knew that mollusks (shellfish) are good at turning Calcium Carbonate into shell. But I didn’t realize until now that Pearls are a fancy form using the same ingredients.
I want to show you how scientists are copying these mollusks which will also show you all the things a tiny blind animal has been preprogrammed to do all by itself!
First, you have to keep the Calcium Carbonate from forming the kind of crystals it automatically wants to make and instead force it to settle onto the surfaces you are coating. Scientists do this with both ions (electrically charged particles) and special “organic compounds” added to the water.
This is an active area of scientific research. For example, at the end of 2015 a study came out showing they found the process of building Mother of Pearl was more organized and microscopic (using nanoparticles) than we had realized.
I found a Pearl Page describing natural Nacre and it says these organic things are “elastic biopolymers, which are chains of organic substance, such as proteins and carbohydrates, [and] are soft and flexible.” I’m afraid compounds and polymers are a little past my teaching level, but I think you get the idea. These two very different substances settle out of the water onto hard surfaces and form super thin, strong layers.
Every website I’ve found that talks about this process compares the Calcium Carbonate to bricks and the organic stuff to mortar. That picture shows how the CC provides the strength needed to build up the shell/pearl while the organic part provides flexibility and holds the whole thing together. Remember, the reason God designed the mollusk to make Nacre (besides to make beautiful jewelry and gates out of) is to protect itself from intruders: parasites that would eat the animal, and sand/grit that would scratch it up.
Next, the shellfish and scientists coat this first thin layer with more organic compound glue filled with microscopic pores. I ran into an older biomimicry page talking about how copying the mollusk can help windshield designers make safer and stronger glass. We’ve already been using a simple form of layered glass and plastic in our cars for almost 90 years. God was way ahead of the curve, as usual!
Then the scientists add one more layer, and then another, and another. But the sea creatures are already way ahead. They don’t work single layers at a time, they “prefabricate” all the layers they need at once.
I’ve found some other studies from earlier experiments that were taking so much work and time they couldn’t actually use the Nacre they made. It seems the real break-through in this newest method is being able to accomplish all of this quickly and easily (= less money). Turns out this time they used a robot to do the repeated dipping into the solutions. Now they need to figure out how to use nanoparticles to build a framework for the Calcium Carbonate to fill in all at once. Easy-peasy. Not!
So, what are we thinking of doing with this new stuff? Apparently no one’s too excited about jewelry (although I linked to the National Jeweler for the latest research). God’s design is too perfect and copying it would likely lower the price too much to be very interesting to investors. What I’ve seen interest in are things like:
- Artifical bones
- Fireproofing Homes and Buildings and other heat protection applications
- Cheap, tough coatings for ______ cars? windshields? watches and other decorative items? you name it! (that page has a cool comparison photo of God’s and man’s Nacre)
- The Engineer.co.uk put their article about the latest research in the Medicine and Health Care section, but didn’t say why, so you can guess for yourself
Once more we see how amazing God’s designs are:
- It takes years of research for us to even figure out what’s going on and more years to make rough copies of His designs.
- We have to use electron microscopes to even see what God was up to!
- God is so smart He programmed “simple” mollusks to do it.
And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. Revelation 21:10,11,21