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Weak hydrogen bonds key to strong, tough infrastructure

The right mix of hydrogen bonds in polymer and cement composites is critical to making strong, tough and ductile infrastructure material, according to Rice University scientists who want to mimic the mechanics of mother-of-pearl and similar natural composites with synthetic materials.

Seashells made of mother-of-pearl, aka nacre, get their remarkable properties from overlapping micron-sized, mineralized plates held together by a soft matrix. This structure can be approached by cement and polymer composites that may, for instance, make better earthquake-resistant concrete, according to Rouzbeh Shahsavari, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

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