Consider red abalone, the largest of Californias marine snails, with a large oval shell that coastal Native Americans once used as a shallow bowl. Inside the shell is mother-of-pearl, or nacre, a tough material that absorbs energy. Maybe, he said, the abalone can show scientists how to make a lightweight armor that is strong enough to protect American soldiers in Iraq from devastating IED attacks.
As the red abalone grows, it constructs its shell in the same way a new building goes up, girders first. In the case of the abalone shell, however, the girders are composed of organic material. Then it fills in the areas between the girders with the mineral component, resulting in the formation of a very tough layered nano-composite. Its all in a very predefined orientation, all controlled by genetics, Kisailus said.
The scientists are trying to mimic that precision, using beakers and simple chemistry to make materials with controlled size and shape. If they succeed, Kisailus sees a future with more efficient energy storage and conversion and eventually, some solutions to the global energy crisis. Imagine having a solar cell that can be inexpensive, flexible, and highly efficient, Kisailus said. I believe many of the organisms we study hold the keys to solving these problems.
The sea tanks are drawing in a crowd of young researchers. It was my co-op experiences and work as a researcher as an undergraduate at Drexel University that set me on this path to research and intrigued my imagination, Kisailus said. Although I am a new professor, and have two graduate students, I am hiring many undergraduates to work in my lab and learn to connect the textbook to research. Right now I have 11 undergrads buzzing around in the lab and will probably hire a few more many with outstanding potential coming from all walks of life. I hope to inspire them the way I have been and get them excited about biomime
|Contact: Kris Lovekin|
University of California - Riverside