Materials World Network (MWN) to Study Liquid Precursor Formation and Crystallization at Interfaces: Fundamentals towards ApplicationsLaurie Gower, University of Florida, DMR 0710605Helmut Cölfen, Max Plank Institute for Colloids & Interfaces, GE Dirk Volkmer, University of Ulm, GE Polarized light microscopy shows a patterned mineral film of calcite which was deposited onto a self-assembled monolayer. This US-German team has come together to investigate the fundamental aspects of a non-classical crystallization process, called the polymer-induced liquid-precursor (PILP) process, which may play a fundamental role in the biomineralization of bones, teeth, and shell formation. The team will determine the rheological properties of a fluidic amorphous phase that is generated as a precursor to inorganic crystals (called the PILP phase); examine the thermodynamics and kinetics of PILP formation; and determine the influence of templates during transformation of the amorphous precursor into crystals. This work will provide new biomimetic processing strategies for advanced materials, including the development of biomimetic bone graft substitutes, biodegradable microcapsules for controlled release, and other biomaterial applications requiring benign processing conditions for sensitive biological components. Atomic Force Microscopy shows that the smooth CaCO3 film is formed from colloidal droplets of a precursor, rather than by the conventional crystal growth process.
Laurie Gower, University of Florida, DMR 0710605 1 mm Broader Impact This Materials World Network will encompass training for both graduate and undergraduate level students, with particular benefits from the integration of research and training in an international environment. In the latter case, materials chemistry projects will be advertised to the undergraduate students of the respective institutions, and top ranked students will be selected to participate in the program during the summer of their junior year, facilitating international networking between the next generation of Materials Scientists. Electron microscopy shows the “brick-n-mortar” architecture of mollusk nacre, which is composed of ‘bricks’ of aragonite crystals layered between a proteinaceous ‘mortar’ Gower poses with undergraduate students who contribute to the research program dealing with biomimetic materials. In this case, the abalone shell (held by Gower) serves as the biological inspiration for nano-laminated composites (shown above).