Crystallisation research mimics nature

February 2, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Research by Victoria University PhD graduate Dr Conrad Lendrum into the crystallisation of calcium carbonate could have far-reaching implications for everything from materials processing to the manufacture of food.

"Nature is able to produce complex hierarchical structures from simple that are highly functional, whereas when we try and replicate those ceramic shapes, we end up with flaws and a limited functionality," says Dr Lendrum.

His research focused on understanding how nature uses a soft scaffold or template to control the size, shape and orientation of calcium carbonate (chalk or limestone) crystals.

"Using a simplified model system, my research showed that growth, when influenced by a soft responsive scaffold, involved the generation of a three-dimensional network that forms prior to crystallisation, and the rearrangement of the scaffold."

Dr Lendrum, who has been employed as a research scientist by Industrial Research Limited (IRL) since 2001, says his research also highlighted the necessity of a degree of randomness in the scaffold.

"The scaffold is not a rigid template as is typical in materials fabrication. Rather, limited disorder provides the necessary freedom for the scaffold and the forming crystal to find a structural and chemical match. Anecdotally, the scaffold subtly manipulates the crystallisation rather than providing a rigid/directed template."

As part of his PhD study, he travelled to Chicago three times to use that enabled him to observe the real-time rearrangement of the soft scaffold in response to crystallisation.

Dr Lendrum says his findings could affect the control of crystallisation in sectors as diverse as tissue engineering and ice cream manufacture.

"We still have some way to go but in understanding how a soft scaffold manipulates crystal formation, but such control could produce ice-free ice cream and the fabrication of improved bone implants."

Dr Lendrum graduated with a PhD in Chemistry in December 2009 and was supported by funding from IRL, Victoria University and the MacDiarmid Institute. His supervisor was Associate Professor Kathryn McGrath.

Explore further: Scientists make first step towards 'holy grail' of crystallography

Related Stories

Stems cells might help repair joints

February 7, 2007

U.S. scientists have built a unique weaving machine that creates a three-dimensional fabric "scaffold" to repair joints with a patient's own stem cells.

New tissue scaffold regrows cartilage and bone

May 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- MIT engineers and colleagues have built a new tissue scaffold that can stimulate bone and cartilage growth when transplanted into the knees and other joints.

Recommended for you

New method developed for producing some metals

August 25, 2016

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and ...

Force triggers gene expression by stretching chromatin

August 26, 2016

How genes in our DNA are expressed into traits within a cell is a complicated mystery with many players, the main suspects being chemical. However, a new study by University of Illinois researchers and collaborators in China ...

New electrical energy storage material shows its power

August 24, 2016

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.

Bio-inspired tire design: Where the rubber meets the road

August 24, 2016

The fascination with the ability of geckos to scamper up smooth walls and hang upside down from improbable surfaces has entranced scientists at least as far back as Aristotle, who noted the reptile's remarkable feats in his ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.