Squid sucker ring
teeth material could aid
serve as eco-packaging
Squid tentacles are loaded with hundreds
of suction cups, or suckers, and each sucker
has a ring of razor-sharp “teeth” that help
these mighty predators latch onto and
take down prey. In a study published in
the journal ACS Nano, researchers report
that the proteins in these teeth could form
the basis for a new generation of strong,
but malleable, materials that could someday be used for reconstructive surgery,
eco-friendly packaging, and many other
Ali Miserez and colleagues explain that in previous
research, they discovered that sharp, tough squid sucker
ring teeth (SRT) are made entirely of proteins. That makes
SRT distinct from many other natural polymers and hard
tissues (such as bones) that require the addition of minerals or other substances to perform the right activities. The
team already had identified one “suckerin” protein and its
In the new study, they identified 37 additional SRT
proteins from two squid species and a cuttlefish. The team
also determined their architectures, including how the
secondary structures, called β-sheets, were formed. These
nanoconfined β-sheets form a reinforced polymer network.
Spider silks also form these structures, which help contrib-
ute to their strength and stability. And just as silk is finding
application in many areas, so too could SRT proteins, which
could be easier to make in the lab and more eco-friendly to
process into usable materials than silk. “We envision SRT-
based materials as artificial ligaments, scaffolds to grow
bone, and as sustainable materials for packaging, substi-
tuting for today’s products made with fossil fuels,” says
Miserez. “There is no shortage of ideas, though we are just
beginning to work on these proteins.”
Read more about the research: “Nanoconfined β-Sheets
Mechanically Reinforce the Supra-Biomolecular Network of
Robust Squid Sucker Ring Teeth,” ACS Nano, 2014, 8 ( 7), pp
New method to identify inks could
help preserve historical documents
The inks on historical documents can hold many secrets.
Their ingredients can help trace trade routes and help reveal a
work’s historical significance. And knowing how the ink breaks
down can help cultural heritage scientists preserve valuable
treasures. In a study published in the Journal of the American
Chemical Society, researchers report the development of a new,
non-destructive method that can identify many types of inks
on various papers and other surfaces.
Richard Van Duyne, Nilam Shah, and colleagues explain that the challenge for
analyzing inks on historical documents is that there’s often very little of it to study.
Another complication is that plant- or insect-based inks, as well as some synthetic
ones, are composed of organic molecules, which break down easily when exposed to
light. Current methods are not very specific or sensitive, and can leave a residue on a
document. To address these issues, the research team set out to develop a different
way to analyze and identify historical inks.
They used tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) to analyze indigo and iron gall
inks on freshly dyed rice papers. They also studied ink on a letter written in the 19th
century. “This proof-of-concept work confirms the analytical potential of TERS
as a new spectroscopic tool for cultural heritage
applications that can identify organic colorants in
artworks with high sensitivity, high spatial resolution, and minimal invasive-ness,” say the researchers.
Read more about the
(TERS) for in Situ Identification of Indigo and Iron
Gall Ink on Paper,” J. Am.
Chem. Soc., 2014, 136
( 24), pp 8677–8684.
1. 9 x 1019 The half-life (in years) of
alpha decay for bismuth-209. This is longer than the
current estimated age of our universe. 55
The atomic number
of cesium, the
softest metal. It is
so malleable that it
can be cut with
a butter knife. 2 2. 5 9 The density in g/cm3 of osmium, the densest naturally occurring element. It
is often used in the
tips of fountain
pens, as it can
stand up easily to
The Celsius temperature
of a lightning strike. This
is about five times hotter
than the Earth’s core.
20The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere produced by the Amazonian rainforests.