Chitin-based structural biocomposites: Abalone Shell and Jumbo Squid Beak
Although much of my research has focused on collagen-based tissue such as Dentin, I have recently embarked on research in chitinaceous materials. Chitin, is a glucose based polysaccharide that is present in the structural body parts of many invertebrates. I have specifically focused on abalone shell and Jumbo squid beak. Abalone shell, is an extremely well organized composite composed mostly of calcium carbonate plates which are surrounded by a thin layer of chitin. I have been using high energy x-ray diffraction to examine the load transfer behavior between ceramic component, calcium carbonate, and the chitin. This work has been done in collaboration with Prof Derk Joester at Northwestern University. Squid beak on the other hand is a non-mineralized structural material composed of crystalline &alpha-chitin and heavily cross-linked proteins. With the squid beak, I am interested in seeing the effect of hydration and the extent of protein cross-linking on the load transfer behavior between the proteins and the polysaccharide. This work is being performed in collaboration with Prof. Ali Miserez at Nanyang Technological University - Singapore.