A scientists holding a dental implant between his fingers.
 Scientist Pezhman Mohammadi holding a dental implant with a crown made from bio-based material modelled after the club of the mantis shrimp. Image: VTT
Science/Research

VTT creates cellulose-based alternative to ceramic dental implants

A mixture of birch cellulose and genetically engineered proteins, the material offers a lighter and tougher alternative to ceramic dental implant crowns.

Aleksi Teivainen

07.09.2021

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland stated last week that the nanocomposite has the potential to become a material for next-generation impact-resistant implants, sporting equipment, body armours and exoskeletons for aircraft, electronics and windscreen coatings.

The research team drew inspiration from the dactyl club of the peachick mantis shrimp, reporting that the end result exhibits the strength, stiffness and fracture toughness of its natural counterpart.

“These mesmerising shrimps are one of nature’s deadliest killing machines,” told Pezhman Mohammadi, research scientist at VTT. “In relation to their size, they pack the strongest punch in the animal kingdom. They smash their prey by throwing a pair of hammer-like raptorial appendages with tremendous speed and force greater than rifle bullets during close-range hunting.”

Mantis shrimp

The peachick mantis shrimp is armed with a pair of hammer-like raptorial appendages called dactyl clubs that they use to bludgeon and smash their prey. Image: Unsplash / Dorothea OLDANI

“The mantis shrimp’s primary sources of food are hard-shell marine organisms, such as molluscs. To get to the soft, nutritious part, they obliterate straight through these highly mineralised exoskeletons.”

Mohammadi elaborated that the club consists of two layers: a soft interior that provides energy dissipation and a hard impact-resistant exterior. While both layers are composed of similar building blocks, they differ in terms of their relative content, polymorphic form and organisation.

Composites in two Petri dishes and a dental implant next to birch leaves

New dental implant crown is made of nanocellulose and genetically engineered proteins in VTT laboratory. Image: VTT

Scientists at VTT duplicated the structure by utilising cellulose nanocrystals and two sets of genetically engineered proteins. One protein set was designed to increase the interface strength of the material and the other to mediate the growth and nucleation of the crystals. The composite was then manufactured into a dental implant crown featuring periodic patterns of micro-reinforcement orientation and a bilayer architecture resembling human teeth.

The research and development project was conducted in co-operation with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

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