Squid teeth, sea snails' egg capsules and a "glue" produced by mussels have inspired scientists to produce a range of new biomaterials which they claim are stronger than most plastics.
During its research and development, a team from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) used a new approach to integrating molecular biology and material science.
It studied the genetic sequencing of various organisms in an effort to understand, recreate and control certain properties of substances produced by animals or parts of the animals themselves.
The team believes the method will help to speed up the discovery and development of biomaterials to within months instead of years.
Biomaterials are matter, synthetic or natural, that can interact safely with biological systems.
The team found that the tiny sucker ring teeth located on a squid's tentacle are hardy and wear-resistant, even when wet. Using the teeth as a primary source, the scientists developed a silk-like biomaterial that is "harder, more rigid and more wear-resistant than conventional plastics".
This can be transformed into biocompatible films for food and drug packaging, or a solution to wear-resistant human implants that are exposed to water on a continuous basis.
"By comparison, silk - which is similar to the material we discovered in terms of molecular structure - is exceptionally strong when dry, but becomes weak when exposed to water," said NTU assistant professor Ali Miserez, who co-led the research.