The Surprising Link Between Seismic Activity and Pearls

Researchers have discovered the secret to how pearls form in perfect symmetry, despite forming around asymmetrical debris inside a clam, oyster, or other mollusk. Each seemingly random layer formed around a pearl is actually dependent upon the previous layer, a phenomenon known as pink noise or 1/f noise — the same phenomenon at work in seismic activity.

When debris enters the mollusk, a substance called nacre is formed around the debris as a protective response. This substance is comprised only of calcium, carbonate, and protein yet it is extremely lightweight and durable, requiring a diamond blade to cut the material. It has also been observed that the nacre can self-heal when a defect arises. Laura Otter, a biogeochemist at the Australian National University in Canberra says, “These humble creatures are making a super light and super tough material so much more easily and better than we do with all our technology.”

The findings have implications for the design of future materials that can be used to produce materials for use in space exploration or to produce solar panels that are more durable and energy-efficient.

For further exploration:

Researchers have unlocked the secret to pearls’ incredible symmetry

The mesoscale order of nacreous pearls

Hyperspectral interference tomography of nacre