They look like shells, carapaces, husks, bones or teeth, but are actually non-biological crystalline structures, minerals obtained in the laboratory, that grow in conditions similar to those of the rocks that contain the oldest fossils on Earth. It is about biomorphs, silica and carbonate materials that are capable of assembling themselves to create symmetries, shapes and textures that are reminiscent of those of living organisms. Researchers from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) have managed to delve into the chemical processes involved in the growth of these nanocrystals, “one of the few cases of chemical self-organization in materials.” The scientists, publishing their results today in the journal Nature Communications, have demonstrated experimentally for the first time that the formation of these biomorphs is self-powered by a pH oscillation.
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There are no edges or angles, but gently Iran Email List curved surfaces. They are usually indistinguishable from biomaterials formed in living organisms. The process to obtain them consists of the precipitation of barium or strontium in alkaline environments rich in silica. “The chemically coupled coprecipitation of carbonate and silica produces a series of laminar structures, which undergo a curling of their growth edges. The curls spread along the edge of the sheets like surf waves ”, explains Juan Manuel García Ruiz, CSIC researcher at the Institute of Earth Sciences (mixed center of the CSIC and the University of Granada), who does three decades he discovered and named these structures. The morphology of these structures, despite being inorganic, is associated with the typical forms of life. “They could have formed perfectly in the first moments of Earth’s history,
when life had not been born or was just beginning. Also the conditions in which these structures grow are similar to those of the rocks that contain the most primitive forms of life ”, adds the CSIC researcher. Materials with autonomy According to this crystallographer, biomorphs present “completely unusual” morphologies, such as spirals, cardioids or septa, “which are prohibited by the symmetry and angles of the crystal structure.” Therefore, they not only teach to better understand the formation of shells and biominerals, but, above all, they open the door for the manufacture of materials that imitate living forms and are capable of assembling themselves. “Silica and carbonate biomorphs pose a fascinating problem about the morphological convergence between the mineral world and the biological world and about the possibility of creating