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Marine sponge yields nanoscale secrets

The simple marine sponge is inspiring cutting-edge research in the design of new materials at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

A report about these exciting new results involving the use of gold nanoparticles is the cover story of the current issue of the scientific journal, Advanced Materials. The article is written by Daniel E. Morse, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at UCSB, and director of the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, and his research group. The authors include postdoctoral fellow, David Kisailus (first author), and graduate students Mark Najarian and James C. Weaver.

The simple sponge fits into the palm of your hand, and proliferates in the ocean next to the UCSB campus, said Morse. "When you remove the tissue you're left with a handful of fiberglass needles as fine as spun glass or cotton. This primitive skeleton supports the structure of the sponge, and we've discovered how this glass is made biologically."

The newly reported research describes an important step forward in translating nature's production methods in the biological world into practical methods for the development of new materials in the laboratory.

The research team developed a method for coupling small, inexpensive synthetic molecules (that duplicate those found at the active center of the bio-catalyst of the marine sponge) onto the surfaces of gold nanoparticles. They showed that when two populations of these chemically modified nanoparticles, each bearing half of the catalytic site, are brought together, they function just as the natural biological catalyst does to make silica at low temperatures.

The UCSB scientists are already taking the next steps toward the development of practical new and useful methods of nanoscale production by incorporating catalytic components on the flat surfaces of silicon wafers, using these techniques to create nanoscale patterns of their catalyst. They are learning
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Source:University of California - Santa Barbara


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