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Biominerals are formed through an intimate association of inorganic materials and organic macromolecules. As Douglas explains in his Perspective, materials scientists increasingly use these materials as an inspiration for new synthetic materials with superior properties. Model systems can also shed light on the mechanisms of biomineral formation. Aizenberg et al. show how an array of organic posts can relieve stress and hence aide a phase change from an amorphous film to a single calcite crystal. The posts also serve as conduits for the removal of water an impurities. Similar processes may for example play a role in the formation of sea urchin spines.