Crystallization in Patterns: A Bio-Inspired Approach

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Original Entry by Michelle Borkin, AP225 Fall 2009


Biomineralization examples.
Figure 1: Scanning electron micrographs of natural crystaline structures. All examples here are biogenic calcium carbonate structures: a) Dorsal arm plate of the brittle star Ophiocoma wendti. b) Fragment of a mollusk shell structure. c) Wall structure of calcareous sponge Sycon sp. d) Fragment of a coccolith skeleton.

"Crystallization in Patterns: A Bio-Inspired Approach."

J. Aizenberg, Adv. Mater., 2004, 16, 1295-1302.


Biomineralization, Artificial Crystallization, Self-assembled monolayers (SAMs), Nucleation


Many examples in nature can be found of biomineralization in which inorganic salts are assembled to form "functional minearlized tissues". This process occurs in very specific environments and is controlled by cells and various macromolecules. The research presented in this paper is a study of these processes and how to apply them to artificially produce crystals in a "bottom-up" approach. Conventional crystal production techniques take a "top-down" approach: grow one large single crystal and then cut-it-down into pieces meeting the correct size, orientation, etc. requirements. In a "bottom-up" approach, the growth of the crystals are governed by their initial physical and chemical conditions to produce the desired crystal. Examples in nature, as shown in Figure 1, are more complex than contemporary manufacturing technology can produce. Creating an effective approach is of great interest to the materials science industry.

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Experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Schematic illustration of the experimental steps for the fabrication of micropatterned substrates used in the crystal growth experiments: a) microcontact printing, b) topographically assisted self-assembly, and c) mechanism of localized crystal growth.
Sample mircopatterns.
Figure 3: Examples of micropatterned oriented calcium carbonate films formed on SAM templates. The substrates in (a-e) and (g) were fabricated using microcontact printing (see Figure 2(a)), while the substrates in (f) and (h) were fabricated using topographically assisted assembly (see Figure 2(b)). (See Figure 3 in the paper for a more detailed explanation of each film.)

New experimental set-up with sample images.
Figures 5 & 6: New experimental approach schematic and sample micropattern (see caption in original figure for more details).