Diatoms are unicellular algae that exhibit exquisite silica cell walls, frustules, made of amorphous silica. Research has shown that diatoms are capable of controlled precipitation of silica during cell division within a specialized membrane called the silica deposition vesicle (SDV). The precipitated silica forms the new shell for the daughter cell. It has been postulated that the diatom SDV contains an emulsion of organic macromolecules arranged in a regular pattern which serve as a template onto which silica is precipitated. Our goal of this project is to use a specially designed emulsification microreaction chamber to gain insight on biosilica formation in vitro at room temperature and near-neutral pH using micro/nanoemulsion templating with synthetic catalyst and diatom-derived silaffins to create micro- and nanoporous silica.
Project end date: 08/02/06