Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Marine sponge yields nanoscale secrets

24.05.2005


This may have hi-tech applications, report UCSB scientists



The simple marine sponge is inspiring cutting-edge research in the design of new materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

A report about these exciting new results involving the use of gold nanoparticles is the cover story of the current issue of the scientific journal, Advanced Materials. The article is written by Daniel E. Morse, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at UCSB, and director of the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, and his research group. The authors include postdoctoral fellow, David Kisailus (first author), and graduate students Mark Najarian and James C. Weaver.


The simple sponge fits into the palm of your hand, and proliferates in the ocean next to the UCSB campus, said Morse. "When you remove the tissue you’re left with a handful of fiberglass needles as fine as spun glass or cotton. This primitive skeleton supports the structure of the sponge, and we’ve discovered how this glass is made biologically."

The newly reported research describes an important step forward in translating nature’s production methods in the biological world into practical methods for the development of new materials in the laboratory.

The research team developed a method for coupling small, inexpensive synthetic molecules (that duplicate those found at the active center of the bio-catalyst of the marine sponge) onto the surfaces of gold nanoparticles. They showed that when two populations of these chemically modified nanoparticles, each bearing half of the catalytic site, are brought together, they function just as the natural biological catalyst does to make silica at low temperatures.

The UCSB scientists are already taking the next steps toward the development of practical new and useful methods of nanoscale production by incorporating catalytic components on the flat surfaces of silicon wafers, using these techniques to create nanoscale patterns of their catalyst. They are learning how to write nanoscale features of semi-conductors on these chip surfaces.

A few years ago, Morse and his research group began investigating how nature builds materials from silicon. Silicon is particularly interesting to Morse, because it is considered by many to be the most important element on the planet technologically. Silicon chips are fundamental components of computers and telecommunications devices. In combination with oxygen, silicon forms fiber optics and drives other high-tech applications.

Morse explained that his research group discovered that the center of the sponge’s fine glass needles contains a filament of protein that controls the synthesis of the needles. By cloning and sequencing the DNA of the gene that codes for this protein, they found that the protein is an enzyme that acts as a catalyst –– a surprising discovery. Never before had a protein been found to serve as a catalyst to promote chemical reactions to form the glass or a rock-like material of a biomineral. From that discovery, the researchers learned that this enzyme actively promotes the formation of the glass while simultaneously serving as a template to guide the shape of the growing mineral (glass) that it produces.

These discoveries are significant because they represent a low temperature, biotechnological, catalytic route to the nanostructural fabrication of valuable materials. Nature produces silica on a scale of gigatons –– thousands of millions of tons –– thousands-fold more than man can produce, said Morse. "This biosynthesis is remarkable because this nanoscale precision can’t be duplicated by man."

Besides this remarkable precision, nature manages to produce silica at a low temperature, in an environmentally friendly way without the use of caustic chemicals, whereas man must use very high temperatures, high vacuums, and dangerous chemicals requiring costly remediation.

Although the reported research marks an important step forward, Morse believes that the use of these biological methods to control such syntheses would be impractical on an industrial scale. The high cost of the purification of these proteins, the requirement of the proteins for a watery environment, and their instability, all make their incorporation into electronic devices impractical. Furthermore, the presence of proteins would be incompatible with the high electronic performance required for today’s device applications.

Instead, the scientists expect that by learning the fundamental mechanism used in nature, that mechanism could be translated into a practical and low-cost manufacturing method. Such a "biomimetic" approach will eventually be used in industry, said Morse.

Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsb.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Siberian scientists suggested a new method for synthesizing a promising magnetic material
23.01.2018 | Siberian Federal University

nachricht Complex tessellations, extraordinary materials
23.01.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists have learned to change the wavelength of Tamm plasmons

24.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Deaf children learn words faster than hearing children

24.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>