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How do some marine organisms form their own glass “skeletons” in cold water?

Israeli researchers discover how sponges build glass skeletons that protect them from their environs


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By —— Bio and Archives November 22, 2017

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Israeli researchers discover how sponges build glass skeletons that protect them from their environment
The technology for forming and shaping glass requires the application of heat at extremely high temperatures. So how do some marine organisms form their own glass “skeletons” in cold water?

That mystery has now been partially solved by a team of Israeli and German scientists. And while the researchers admit that what the marine organisms are doing “is far beyond the abilities of current human technology,” further study may bring us closer to the ability to mimic the mechanism at room temperature in a lab.

The goal is to develop crystalline materials at the nano level for next-generation electronics.

The team, headed by Prof. Emil Zolotoyabko of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and colleagues in Germany, headed by Dr. Igor Zlotnikov from TU Dresden, used nano-tomography and focused X-ray diffraction at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.

Understanding fully how the marine organisms work their glass magic would require multiple PhDs, but the basic principle is this: Two classes of sponges called Demospongiae and Hexactinellida build skeletons – called glass “spicules” – to provide them structural support and mechanical strength and to protect them from their environment. The tiny symmetrical spicules are just microns to millimeters long.—More…

 

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