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Trends Biotechnol. 2009 Feb;27(2):116-27. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2008.11.003. Epub 2009 Jan 23.

The Glass Menagerie: diatoms for novel applications in nanotechnology.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg MB R3A 1R9, Canada.


Diatoms are unicellular, eukaryotic, photosynthetic algae that are found in aquatic environments. Diatoms have enormous ecological importance on this planet and display a diversity of patterns and structures at the nano- to millimetre scale. Diatom nanotechnology, a new interdisciplinary area, has spawned collaborations in biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, physics, chemistry, material science and engineering. We survey diatom nanotechnology since 2005, emphasizing recent advances in diatom biomineralization, biophotonics, photoluminescence, microfluidics, compustat domestication, multiscale porosity, silica sequestering of proteins, detection of trace gases, controlled drug delivery and computer design. Diatoms might become the first organisms for which the gap in our knowledge of the relationship between genotype and phenotype is closed.

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