Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Marine Sponges Provide Model For Environmentally Friendly Nanoscale Materials Production, Scientists Report

Date:
February 26, 2004
Source:
University Of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
University of California, Santa Barbara researchers have studied the abalone shell for its high-performance, super-resistant, composite mineral structure. Now they are now looking to learn new biotechnological routes to make high performance electronic and optical materials.

"Nature was nano before nano was cool," stated Henry Fountain in a recent New York Times article on the proliferation of nanotechnology research projects. No one is more aware of this fact of nature than Dan Morse of the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research groups have been studying the ways that nature builds ocean organisms at the nanoscale for over ten years.

Related Articles


For example, they have studied the abalone shell for its high-performance, super-resistant, composite mineral structure.

Now they are now looking to learn new biotechnological routes to make high performance electronic and optical materials.

"We are now learning how to harness the biomolecular mechanism that directs the nanofabrication of silica in living organisms," says Morse. "This is to learn to direct the synthesis of photovoltaic and semiconductor nanocrystals of titanium dioxide, gallium oxide and other semiconductors –– materials with which nature has never built structures before."

Most recently, Morse and his students have made advances in copying the way marine sponges construct skeletal glass needles at the nanoscale. The research group is using nature's example to produce semiconductors and photovoltaic materials in an environmentally benign way –– as they report in a recent issue of the journal Chemistry of Materials.

"Sponges are abundant right here off-shore and they provide a uniquely tractable model system that opens the paths to the discovery of the molecular mechanism that governs biological synthesis from silicon," says Morse. "This sponge produces copious quantities of fiberglass needles made from silicon and oxygen."

Morse directs the new Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, a UCSB-led initiative funded by a grant of $50 million from the Army Research Office, which operates in partnership with MIT and Caltech. He also directs the Marine Biotechnology Center of UCSB's Marine Science Institute.

The work is particularly exciting, according to Morse, because silicon has been called the most important element on the planet technologically –– silicon chips are fundamental components of computers, telecommunications devices, and in combination with oxygen forms fiber optics and drives other high-tech applications.

He explains that his research group discovered that the center of the sponge's fine glass needles contains a filament of protein that controls the synthesis of the needles. By cloning and sequencing the DNA of the gene that codes for this protein, they discovered that the protein is an enzyme that acts as a catalyst, a surprising discovery. Never before had a protein been found to serve as a catalyst to promote chemical reactions to form the glass or a rock-like material of a biomineral. From that discovery, the research group learned that this enzyme actively promotes the formation of the glass while simultaneously serving as a template to guide the shape of the growing mineral (glass) that it produces.

"Most recently in this research, which is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant Program and the Department of Energy, we've discovered that these activities can be applied to the synthesis of valuable semiconductors, metal oxides such as titanium and gallium that have photovoltaic and semiconductor properties," says Morse. The group is using a synthetic mimic of the enzymes found in marine sponges.

These discoveries are significant because they represent a low temperature, biotechnological, catalytic route to the nanostructural fabrication of valuable materials. The research group is now translating these discoveries into practical engineering.

Currently these materials are produced at very high temperatures in high vacuums, using caustic chemicals. With these latest discoveries, scientists have found that nanotechnology can copy nature and produce materials in a much more environmentally friendly way than the current state-of-the-art.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California - Santa Barbara. "Marine Sponges Provide Model For Environmentally Friendly Nanoscale Materials Production, Scientists Report." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040226064656.htm>.
University Of California - Santa Barbara. (2004, February 26). Marine Sponges Provide Model For Environmentally Friendly Nanoscale Materials Production, Scientists Report. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040226064656.htm
University Of California - Santa Barbara. "Marine Sponges Provide Model For Environmentally Friendly Nanoscale Materials Production, Scientists Report." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040226064656.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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