Sydney, November 14 (ANI): The next time you bungee jump off a cliff, mermaid's necklace, a gooey, stringy material that marine snails use to protect their growing embryos, could provide you with a smoother ride.
According to a report by ABC Science, based on mermaid's necklace, a gooey, stringy material snails use to protect their growing embryos, the synthetic substance could have a range of applications, from bounce-less bungee cords to replacement, artificial ligaments for knees and other joints.
"These delicate little critters are tossed around for months and months by very large breakers and manage to survive," said Professor Herbert Waite of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
"You could put something that delicate in a leather or plastic pouch, subject it to that same environment, and it would be very damaged," he added.
Washed up on the beach, mermaid's necklace resembles a translucent, gooey string of pearls several metres long.
At the molecular level, mermaid's necklace resembles a twisted ladder, similar to DNA, but with three stringers instead of two.
As the twisted triple helix emerges from the whelk, a snail found on the East Coast of the United States, the creature layers the strands on top of each other, forming a small, tube-shaped casing.
The 50 to 100 strands give the necklace the strength of plastic and the flexibility of rubber.
Pulled in opposite directions, mermaid's necklace stretches like a rubber band, the bonds between the coiled triple helices breaking one by one as the material elongates.
Unlike a rubber band, however, once the maximum length is reached, mermaid's necklace doesn't quickly bounce back.
The triple helices slowly re-form the broken bonds, shortening the strand back to its original resting length.
If a person jumped off a bridge using a cord made of mermaid's necklace, the bungee jumper would come to a gentle halt before being slowly raised back up.
Mermaid's necklace could be one of the first materials to have an effective synthetic counterpart, according to Bob Shadwich, a scientist who studies biomemetic materials at the University of British Columbia.
Mermaid's necklace proteins "show a very strong propensity to self-assemble, which makes producing the material much easier," said Shadwick. (ANI)