PerspectiveBioinspired Materials

Growing a synthetic mollusk shell

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Science  07 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6308, pp. 32-33
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6507

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Summary

The deposition of dissolved minerals is usually harmful and can cause the failure of boilers or heat exchangers. Likewise, uncontrolled calcification in our bodies can cause kidney stones or failure of aortic valves. Yet mineralization is also critical in our bones and teeth to achieve stiffness, strength, and hardness. In these materials, biomineralization is controlled and harnessed through intricate organic templates that guide the growth and shape of crystals (1). As a result, bones, mollusk shells, diatoms, and corals have organic shapes that bear little resemblance to the angular crystals typical of geology. On page 107 of this issue, Mao et al. (2) report the biomimetic synthesis of nacre-like material fabricated by controlled mineralization of a multilayered organic template based on chitosan.