Researchers have successfully grown the biological minerals found in seashells, bones and teeth in an artificial environment. Biological minerals, or biominerals, have the property of being very hard which makes them useful.
Ceramics- similar man-made materials- struggle to achieve the properties found in biominerals without using high temperatures and pressures. In nature, however, biominerals are formed in the conditions we live in every day. The ability to create these materials in these conditions is therefore potentially much better for the environment.
Biominerals in nature are normally composites of calcium carbonate- the main ingredient in chalk and limestone- and small amounts of a protein. The team of scientists, including University of Manchester researchers from the School of Materials, grew biominerals in the lab using calcium carbonate crystals. They replaced the proteins found in nature with nanoparticles to achieve the same effect.
Testing of these lab-grown biominerals proved that they were harder than pure calcium carbonate, as is the case in natural biominerals. Scientists plan on continuing this research by replacing calcium carbonate with other minerals to see if it produces the same result.
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