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J Synchrotron Radiat. 2005 Nov;12(Pt 6):721-6. Epub 2005 Oct 18.

Microfocus X-ray scattering investigations of eggshell nanotexture.

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Division of Cell Sciences, Institute of Comparative Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow, Bearsden Road, Glasgow G61 1QH, UK.


The avian eggshell is a highly ordered calcitic bioceramic composite, with both inorganic and organic constituents. The interactions between the inorganic and organic components within the structure are poorly understood but are likely to occur at the nanometre level. Thus structural variation at this level may impinge on the overall structural integrity and mechanical performance of the eggshell, and therefore analysis at this level is fundamental in fully understanding this ordered structure. In this study, structural changes in the mineral crystallites were investigated by microfocus small-angle X-ray scattering (microSAXS) using synchrotron radiation. Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) can be used to investigate structures on the nanometre scale such as size, shape, arrangement and internal porosity. A microfocused X-ray beam, 1.5 microm vertically by 7 microm, was used to produce vertical linear scans of the eggshell section. SAXS patterns were taken from the eggshell membrane (inner surface of the eggshell) to the cuticle (outer surface of the eggshell). This allowed textural variations within the eggshell to be mapped. The scattering intensity profile was then used to derive the dimension of scattering objects that define the nanotexture. The nanotexture observed may result from the presence of the organic matrix, which is embedded as intracrystalline particles producing voids within the calcified framework of large (>1 microm) calcite crystals. Porod analysis revealed the average size of a scattering interface to be approximately 4.5 nm with small changes that had a depth-dependent variation. These were largest at the mammillary layer/membrane boundary. The palisade layer displayed a small upward trend in size of scattering object. Parallel scans showed that the textural variations observed within the palisade layer are significant and indicate local subtextures. In addition, many of the patterns exhibit diffuse scattering streaks that could result from reflectivity from the larger crystallite interfaces. Changes in the orientation of diffuse streaks were observed within the different layers, the membranes, mammillary layer, palisade layer, vertical crystal layer and cuticle, indicating certain preferred orientations of the crystallites within the layers. The nanotextural variations that are apparent could have implications at the macroscopic level of the resulting eggshell.

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