Biological Control of Crystal Texture: A Widespread Strategy for Adapting Crystal Properties to Function

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Science  05 Feb 1993:
Vol. 259, Issue 5096, pp. 776-779
DOI: 10.1126/science.259.5096.776


Textures of calcite crystals from a variety of mineralized tissues belonging to organisms from four phyla were examined with high-resolution synchrotron x-ray radiation. Significant differences in coherence length and angular spread were observed between taxonomic groups. Crystals from polycrystalline skeletal ensembles were more perfect than those that function as single-crystal elements. Different anisotropic effects on crystal texture were observed for sea urchin and mollusk calcite crystals, whereas none was found for the foraminifer, Patellina, and the control calcite crystals. These results show that the manipulation of crystal texture in different organisms is under biological control and that crystal textures in some tissues are adapted to function. A better understanding of this apparently widespread biological phenomenon may provide new insights for improving synthetic crystal-containing materials.

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