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Late-night TV ads aside, we know there’s currently no way to keep a knife sharp over time without spending some time sharpening. But a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison thinks they may have found just such a beast in nature: urchin teeth.

Urchins, it seems, chew through rock for long periods of time, all without dulling their teeth. The UW team discovered that the urchin tooth is composed of both biological and mineral substances, allowing tiny bits to shear off as they dull, keeping the tooth itself pointy and effective. Needless to say, they see real-world application. Pupa Gilbert, the professor leading the UW team:

“Now that we know how it works, the knowledge could be used to develop methods to fabricate tools that could actually sharpen themselves with use. The mechanism used by the urchin is the key. By shaping the object appropriately and using the same strategy the urchin employs, a tool with a self-sharpening edge could, in theory, be created.”

For lots more detailed information, check out the link below.

(Photo courtesy of UWM News.)

Ever-Sharp Urchin Teeth May Yield Tools That Never Need Honing [UWM News]


6 Responses to Truly Ever-Sharp Blades — From Urchin Teeth?

  1. Jesse says:

    Don’t sharks constantly renew their teeth as well? I think the new teeth migrate forward from the inner gum surface to the outside. There’s an idea to replicate.

  2. Cameron Watt says:

    As the concept relates to earth moving bucket teeth, a strategy for hard surfacing is to just apply it to one side.

    If both sides are protected then a blunt tooth will result as the tip wears; making life harder for machines and operators if they’re not changed. Leaving one side relatively unprotected allows that side to wear along with the tip and help keep a useful tooth shape longer.

    I also recall seeing a television clip as a boy about a fellow who made a special design of cutting edge for a bucket that had integrated teeth. The edge and teeth had a special differential heat treatment that allowed the edge and teeth to wear and remain sharp.

  3. Mike47 says:

    Diamond-impregnated drill bits used in geologic and geotechnical drills expose new cutting surface as they wear. Same, I thik, for percussion bits that have carbide spheres (think marbles) in a matrix of steel. Not a new idea, really.

  4. justsomeguy says:

    Sounds like precision shaped friability to me. Very interesting.

  5. Kyle says:

    Hmm that is pretty cool nice post.

  6. ambush says:

    Cat Claws?

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