New insights into chalk mineralization 

How does calcareous algae develop nanostructures?

August 04, 2016

Just with chalk, proteins and sugar a complex and filigree nanoworld can be composed by marine organisms as calcareous algae, mussels, sea urchins and star fish. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam offer new insights into these mechanisms of calcareous algae. The team led by André Scheffel investigated the formation of chalky shells ("coccoliths") in the so-called coccolithophores. There observation could be transferred to other products of biomineralization, as e.g. in bones or tooth. Knowledge of these mechanisms could be also used technically.

The Potsdam based scientists published their results in “Science”. The coccoliths are tiny chalk shells, protecting the algae and are highly ordered arrangements of calcite crystals produced by the organisms. Depending on the organism, these structures are quite divers. But how are these structures formed? According to the study, the localization of crystals within the coccoliths is determined by the interaction of nucleating macromolecules with the mineral phase. The scientists showed that a specific interaction between soluble organic molecules and an organic backbone structure directs mineral components to specific sites.

This is a summary of our German press release. For more information please check the original publication or the German version of this article.

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