The limpet teeth's microscopic structure is analogous to man-made short-fiber composites. Its strength depends on the direction of the force, relative to the orientation of the fibers.


For worldbuilders, this thing is a gift from Glarnak (our awesome god). Basically, an organic substitute for carbon fiber. The only real problem is the density, as its mostly made of the mineral, goethite. Graphene is reactive but reasonably stable enough for a living creature to use. So, I wanted to replace the goethite fibers with carbon nanotubes of the same length or something similarly lightweight.

Can I replace goethite whith something else in limpet teeth to decrease its density without decreasing its strength?

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    $\begingroup$ Woah. An intelligible question from Mephistopheles! This isn't stuffed with obscure memes!! Are you ok? $\endgroup$ – Arkenstein XII Nov 11 '19 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ @ArkensteinXII I'm not. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Nov 11 '19 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ Doing a Google Search for Glarnak reveals him to be related to World of Warcraft. Now I'm genuinely curious how this topic is being incorporated into your world. $\endgroup$ – overlord Nov 11 '19 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ @overlord-ReinstateMonica worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3789/32097 $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Nov 11 '19 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ @overlord-ReinstateMonica That's still primarily a money laundering scheme. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Nov 11 '19 at 20:51

The key feature of the limpet teeth is the combination of mineral element and a protein element. I believe that for a "clever" designer, it won't be hard to experiment a little bit with other "mineral-like" solutions.

For example you could sythesize a protein, that would glue together multiple carbon nano tubes, which would lead to similar strength levels. Bear in mind, that proteins offer a really large domain of structure options.

If I remember correctly, the limpet teeth were the strongest in a pull-like manner. In that case, you could look up Carbyne as the strongest carbon structure recently found. Since it is a 1-dimensional structure, requiring carbon nanotubes to be stabilized, it might not perform that well in a push-like situations (maybe with some more clever protein gluing it would)

The thing is, that Iron is a relatively abundant element, thus it makes sense that it was the first "choice" for Nature to try it (and it performed very well). If you have any other minerals abundant in your world, you should try to build around them first (if you are not an evolution-dismissing type of person).

  • $\begingroup$ limpet teeth are not just very strong under tension they are also very hard, one of the the big advantageous they have is there structure is entirely made of bonded nano crystals thus no crystal is large enough to have flaws, which drastically increases its strength and rigidity. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 19 '20 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for clarification. I was not implying they are not strong in a push-like situation, I was just trying to suggest solutions based on purpose. I am not really aware if the author would want to use the material solely in limpets. $\endgroup$ – Adam Bajger Feb 5 '20 at 14:03

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