"In the course of biomineralization, organisms produce a large variety of functional biogenic crystals that exhibit fascinating mechanical, optical, magnetic and other characteristics. More specifically, when living organisms grow crystals they can effectively control polymorph selection as well as the crystal morphology, shape, and even atomic structure. Materials existing in nature have extraordinary and specific functions, yet the materials employed in nature are quite different from those engineers would select.
I propose to emulate specific strategies used by organisms in forming structural biogenic crystals, and to apply these strategies biomimetically so as to form new structural materials with new properties and characteristics. This bio-inspired approach will involve the adoption of three specific biological strategies. We believe that this procedure will open up new ways to control the structure and properties of smart materials.
The three bio-inspired strategies that we will utilize are:
(i) to control the short-range order of amorphous materials, making it possible to predetermine the polymorph obtained when they transform from the amorphous to the succeeding crystalline phase;
(ii) to control the morphology of single crystals of various functional materials so that they can have intricate and curved surfaces and yet maintain their single-crystal nature;
(iii) to entrap organic molecules into single crystals of functional materials so as to tailor and manipulate their electronic structure.
The proposed research has significant potential for opening up new routes for the formation of novel functional materials. Specifically, it will make it possible for us
(1) to produce single, intricately shaped crystals without the need to etch, drill or polish;
(2) to control the short-range order of amorphous materials and hence the polymorph of the successive crystalline phase;
(3) to tune the band gap of semiconductors via incorporation of tailored bio-molecules."
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