Public Release:  Pearly perfection

American Chemical Society

The mystery of how pearls form into the most perfectly spherical large objects in nature may have an unlikely explanation, scientists are proposing in a new study. It appears in ACS' journal Langmuir, named for 1932 Nobel Laureate Irving Langmuir.

Julyan Cartwright, Antonio G. Checa and Marthe Rousseau point out that the most flawless and highly prized pearls have perhaps the most perfectly spherical, or ball-like, shape among all the objects in nature that are visible without a microscope. Pearls develop as nacre (mother of pearl) and other liquids accumulate around grains of sand or other foreign objects inside certain oysters and other shellfish. But how do pearls grow into such perfect spheres?

The answer, they say, may be relatively simple -- with developing pearls having a saw-toothed, or ratchet-like, surface. That texture generates forces that make the pearl turn inside the oyster's tissues in response to movements in the environment. The result is a spherical build-up of nacre and other textures. Rotating pearls are a perhaps unique example of a natural ratchet, the scientists say.

###

The authors acknowledge funding from the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacion and the European BioMineralix.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter Facebook

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.