Chemistry of Organized Matter – Nucleation and Crystallization at Organic-Inorganic Interfaces

The general goal of our research in this field is to investigate and understand the mechanisms, by which organisms produce hard tissue such as bones, teeth or shells and to use these mechanis ms in a biomimetic approach to functional inorganic materials with higher order architectures at a meso- to nanoscopic scale. While synthetic methods typically employ high temperatures and pressures, or elaborate starting materials to produce advanced materials, nature clearly does not have these options available and operates under mild conditions to produce intricate structures, perfectly optimized to their function within an organism. Although there is no single route by which nature achieves this goal, a number of common strategies are recognized. A key strategy is the use of organic (macro)molecules. These can be in the form of an insoluble organic matrix, which generates a unique environment in which crystallisation occurs and can influence nucleation processes. Soluble organic additives are also typically present during crystal growth, and can influence crystal texture and morphology.

We are currently investigating a variety of strategies which mimic some of the processes employed in biology. Crystal growth is typically heterogeneous and occurs in association with interfaces. We are interested in producing well-characterised interfaces and studying, how crystal nucleation and growth is affected by the interface.

For surface reactions, a broad range of projects are carried out, varying from quartz microbalance measurements and surface plasmon spectroscopy for studying adsorption at crystallisation, to AFM, light and and neutron scattering studies in order to learn about the initial steps of mineralization. Each of these experiments provides a small piece of information to better understand natural crystal growth phenomena.

  • Mineralization at tailor-made surfaces
  • Mineralization controlled by the combination a matrix layer and additves in solution
  • Control of mineralization using proteins or (bio)polymers
  • Mechanistic studies mineralization reactions