On the Mechanistic Origins of Toughness in Bone
One of the most intriguing protein materials found in nature is bone, a material composed of assemblies of tropocollagen molecules and tiny hydroxyapatite mineral crystals that form an extremely tough, yet lightweight, adaptive and multifunctional material. Bone has evolved to provide structural support to organisms, and therefore its mechanical properties are of great physiological relevance. In this article, we review the structure and properties of bone, focusing on mechanical deformation and fracture behavior from the perspective of the multidimensional hierarchical nature of its structure. In fact, bone derives its resistance to fracture with a multitude of deformation and toughening mechanisms at many size scales ranging from the nanoscale structure of its protein molecules to the macroscopic physiological scale.