Modeling microarchitecture and mechanical behavior of nacre using 3D finite element techniques: Part I Elastic properties

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Three dimensional finite element models of nacre were constructed based on reported microstructural studies on the ‘brick and mortar’ micro-architecture of nacre. 3D eight noded isoparametric brick elements were used to design the microarchitecture of nacre. Tensile tests were simulated using this model. The tests were conducted at low stresses of 2 MPa which occur well within the elastic regime of nacre and thus effects related to locus and extent of damage were ignored. Our simulations show that using the reported values of elastic moduli of organic (0.005 GPa) and aragonitic platelets (205 GPa), the displacements observed in nacre are extremely large and correspond to a very low modulus of 0.011 GPa. The reported elastic modulus of nacre is of the order of 50 GPa. The reason for this inconsistency may arise from two possibilities. Firstly, the organic layer due to its multilayered structure is possibly composed of distinct layers of different elastic moduli. The continuously changing elastic modulus within the organic layer may approach modulus of aragonite near the organic-inorganic interface. Simulations using variable elastic moduli for the organic phase suggest that an elastic modulus of 15 GPa is consistent with the observed elastic behavior of nacre. Another explanation for the observed higher elastic modulus may arise from localized platelet-platelet contact. Since the observed modulus of nacre lies within the above two extremes (i.e. 15 GPa and 205 GPa) it is suggested that a combination of the two possibilities, i.e. a higher modulus of the organic phase near the organic-inorganic interface and localized platelet-platelet contact can result in the observed elastic properties of nacre.

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