Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Impurities In Biominerals Reveal Key To Understanding Climate Change, Will Lead To Novel Materials

Date:
November 13, 2000
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
From the familiar seashells and corals, to the microscopic plankton that live in ocean surface waters, the calcium carbonate skeletons produced by these organisms contain important clues to Earth history. By observing the microscopic growth of calcium carbonate crystals using the atomic force microscope, researchers observed for the first time the fundamental physical processes that help govern climate change and ocean chemistry through the formation of biominerals.

Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 9, 2000 -- From the familiar seashells and corals, to the microscopic plankton that live in ocean surface waters, the calcium carbonate skeletons produced by these organisms contain important clues to Earth history. By observing the microscopic growth of calcium carbonate crystals using the atomic force microscope, researchers observed for the first time the fundamental physical processes that help govern climate change and ocean chemistry through the formation of biominerals.

The research by geological sciences Ph.D. student Kevin J. Davis and geochemist Patricia M. Dove, both of Virginia Tech, and crystal growth physicist James J. De Yoreo of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will be published in Science on Friday, Nov. 10, 2000 ("The Role of Mg2+ as an Impurity in Calcite Growth").

The calcium carbonate biominerals that are produced by ocean creatures to fulfill biological needs eventually settle to the bottom of the ocean to form much of the sea-floor sediment. The process of crystallizing ions from the seawater to form the minerals in their shells removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas thought to cause global warming.

Magnesium is the principal impurity in seawater that interferes with the growth of the calcium carbonate minerals so critical to the survival of many organisms. However, the actual mechanism by which magnesium alters calcium carbonate growth has remained controversial for the past 25 years. Davis and his colleagues resolved this long-standing controversy. "By comparing molecular-scale measurements with theoretical crystal growth impurity models we were finally able to achieve a physical understanding of the way in which magnesium modifies calcium carbonate growth," he explains.

Many biominerals are so well adapted to their individual roles that they exhibit remarkable properties, making the processes involved in 'biomineralization' of interest to a wide array of scientific disciplines. Another reason the biomineralization process is of interest is because organisms are able to create structures of astonishing complexity that are remarkably strong but lightweight. Scientists are currently unable to reproduce materials with similar properties.

"This research brings us a step closer to understanding how organisms are able to form crystalline materials with unique structural properties," says Davis. "We hope to eventually develop new materials based upon the complex strategies used by organisms to produce their own mineral shelters." These materials will allow us to develop new lightweight ceramics for medical and high-tech applications.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences.

Davis is pursuing research that has grown from his interest in earth sciences. "I like to see how the basic processes that occur at mineral surfaces relate to the big picture of how the Earth system works." The presence of magnesium in calcium carbonate biominerals is used by scientists as an indicator of past climates. "Ancient seawater temperatures can be determined from the amount of magnesium present in calcium carbonate biominerals," Davis says. From there he became interested in the process. Now the funding for his research comes from both those interested in climate change (NSF) and those interested in the development of new materials (DOE). He won the Gold Award for outstanding graduate research at the 2000 meeting of the Materials Research Society for his molecular-level study of the biomineralization process, which will now be published in Science.

Davis, who grew up in Richmond, Va., and is a graduate from Monacan High School in Richmond, VA (1993), received his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from the University of Virginia in 1997, his master's degree in geochemistry from Georgia Tech this past spring, and is now a Ph.D. student in geological sciences at Virginia Tech. Dove, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, was also his major professor at Georgia Tech before relocating to Virginia Tech this summer.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Impurities In Biominerals Reveal Key To Understanding Climate Change, Will Lead To Novel Materials." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001110071924.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2000, November 13). Impurities In Biominerals Reveal Key To Understanding Climate Change, Will Lead To Novel Materials. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001110071924.htm
Virginia Tech. "Impurities In Biominerals Reveal Key To Understanding Climate Change, Will Lead To Novel Materials." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001110071924.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) — MIT researchers developed a light-based sensor that gives robots 100 times the sensitivity of a human finger, allowing for "unprecedented dexterity." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins