Biogenic inspiration for the controlled nucleation and growth of inorganic materials
Heywood, BR and Hill, S and Pitt, K and Tibble, P and Williams, S, Biogenic inspiration for the controlled nucleation and growth of inorganic materials, Proceedings of the Materials Research Society Symposium Spring 2000, 24-28 April 2000, San Francisco, California, pp. M4.5.1-M4.5.12. (2000) [Refereed Conference Paper]
The development of effective protocols for the control of crystal structure, size and morphology attracts considerable interest given the requirement for particles of modal size and shape in many areas of particle processing and the importance of crystallochemical selectivity in determining the exploitable properties of crystalline solids. In biological systems there are many examples of advanced "crystal engineering" in which materials are deposited in a highly controlled manner to produce crystal phases that are unique with respect to their structure, habit, uniformly of size and texture. A review of biomineralisation will show that while a complex array of strategies have evolved for regulating crystal growth, one feature is common to the biological paradigm. Interactions between supramolecular organic structures and the nascent inorganic solids play a fundamental role in controlling the deposition of the biominerals and ordering the assembly of these units into hierarchical structures. In order to gain a better understanding of the molecular recognition events, which take place at the organic-inorganic interface, a bio-inspired crystal chemical approach has been adopted. For this work organised organic assemblies (e.g. surfactant aggregates, peptide mimics, dendrimers) of precise molecular design (head group identity, packing conformation, primary sequence etc.) are being assayed for their effectiveness in controlling the nucleation and growth of crystals. It is evident from these studies that the chemical organisation of the polymeric microenvironment operates at the molecular level to control certain aspects of the nucleation, growth and stabilisation of inorganic particles. By systematically changing the molecular motif of the organic template we have established that the size, crystallographic orientation, growth and assembly of the mineral phase can be tailored to function. These results have relevance not only to our understanding of biomineralisation but also suggest a multiplicity of exploitable opportunities for the engineering of crystals.