Nature makes intricate structures under ambient conditions using materials found in it's immediate environment, without minimal harm to the environment. Sea shells such as the abalone are high composite materials composed of 95% inorganic materials and 5% organic matter or 'glue'. The microscopic structure resembles a brick and mortar 'house'. The abalone shell is ~1000x stronger than it's geological inorganic material, calcium carbonate. Interestingly, it's the organic matter that lends the strength to the shells.
In the past decade or more, researchers have tried to elucidate nature's design schemes in an attempt to mimic these structures.
In a recent publication, Nicolas Kotov, an Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan demonstrates the preparation of a nanostructured composite having nacre-like architecture.
To read more see: Nanowerk News
His work is published in Advanced Materials 2007, 19: 949-955.