Nacre, or mother of pearl, is a biomaterial with a layered structure. In a recent geological study, researchers found that the width of the nacre layers depends on the formation temperature, which is determined by the ocean water temperature. A linear dependence of layer width with respect to temperature is understandable within the transient liquid-crystalline nature of incipient nacre. Thus, developing nacre is a liquid-crystal thermometer recording its formation temperature. A more complete understanding of nacre formation is of interest not only for biology and geology, in terms of biomineralization and paleoclimatology, but also for materials science: for reproducing nacre or fabricating synthetic analogues and also potentially for developing new classes of layered materials with layer spacings tunable by pH and temperature.
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