rganisms use the process at the molecular level is poorly understood because of the difficulty of simultaneously probing the soft, light polymer templates and their hard mineral products. The advent of X-ray spectromicroscopy, the method used by De Stasio's team, is opening a new window into this intriguing interplay of nature.
Insight into the interconnections between organic and inorganic materials at the molecular level, De Stasio suggests, could well come about with the new X-ray microscopy techniques. Ultimately, the new results may help humans learn how to mimic the processes that result in nature's material science masterpieces, substances like shell and bone, things that have never before been made from scratch by human hands.
"The hope is that this may inspire new routes for biomimetic synthesis," Banfield says.
De Stasio notes that mollusks, combining a polymer matrix and a mineral, produce shells that are 3,000 times harder than the mineral alone. Scientists have yet to make any composite material that is tougher than any of its individual components.
In addition to De Stasio, Banfield and Chan, co-authors of the Science paper include Susan A. Welch, Maria V. Nesterova and Bradley H. Frazer of UW-Madison; Marco Girasole of the Instituto di Struttura della Materia, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rome, Italy; and Sirine Fakra, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Advanced Light Source.
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Contact: Gelsomina De Stasio
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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