Calcium carbonate is a salt for all seasons. It turns up not only in marble, but also in biogenic sediments such as limestone and coral reefs – and even in pearls. The compound exists in two major crystalline forms, as calcite or aragonite. However, it is not clear what determines which variant an organism will exploit under conditions in which both forms can precipitate.
A team of researchers led by LMU geobiologist Dr. Azizur Rahman, who is also a Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, has now answered this question, in collaboration with colleagues based at the University of the Ryukyu Islands in Japan. Together, the scientists have shown that, in the soft coral species Lobophytum crissum, a secreted, extracellular protein known as ECMP-67 is the decisive factor that results in the precipitation of calcite, irrespective of the chemical conditions prevailing in the surrounding seawater. “Over the course of Earth’s history, and most probably depending on the relative amounts of dissolved magnesium and calcium ions, either calcite or aragonite has dominated in the world’s oceans,” says Professor Gert Wörheide, one of the authors of the new study.
Current conditions favor the formation of aragonite, and many stony corals build their skeletons exclusively from this material. However, thanks to ECMP-67, Lobophytum crassum can still produce calcite in an aragonite sea. “We have also been able to show how the extracellular protein ECMP-67 contributes to the production of calcite at the molecular level,” says Rahman. “These findings should also allow us to elucidate the crystal structure of calcite in natural environments.” The study was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Sciences. (suwe/PH)
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A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
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A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
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For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
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Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
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23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy