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The Art of Engineering

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Chilton

Research at McCormick pushes frontiers and crosses disciplines -- and along the way it may produce images of significant aesthetic value. These images may suggest new questions, generate or reveal new information, convey new meaning, and generate new connections. Many -- like the one shown here -- can be considered pieces of art in their own right.

 This image shows the front section of the radula (tongue-like organ) of an Eastern beaded chiton, a kind of marine mollusk. The chiton, which constantly grazes algae from the surface of rocks, constructs these small black teeth along the radula from ultrahard nanocrystalline iron oxide (magnetite). Although these teeth are one of the hardest minerals found in biology, they still wear out, and the organism constantly replaces them with new teeth at a rate of nearly one row per day.

This image, captured in a reflected-light stereomicroscope, is courtesy of Derk Joester, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and Morris E. Fine Professor of Materials and Manufacturing, and his graduate student Lyle Gordon. The researchers are studying how the chiton controls the formation of the teeth.