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Science. 2009 Nov 27;326(5957):1244-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1178583.

Visualizing the 3D internal structure of calcite single crystals grown in agarose hydrogels.

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  • 1Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Single crystals are usually faceted solids with homogeneous chemical compositions. Biogenic and synthetic calcite single crystals, however, have been found to incorporate macromolecules, spurring investigations of how large molecules are distributed within the crystals without substantially disrupting the crystalline lattice. Here, electron tomography reveals how random, three-dimensional networks of agarose nanofibers are incorporated into single crystals of synthetic calcite by allowing both high- and low-energy fiber/crystal interface facets to satisfy network curvatures. These results suggest that physical entrapment of polymer aggregates is a viable mechanism by which macromolecules can become incorporated inside inorganic single crystals. As such, this work has implications for understanding the structure and formation of biominerals as well as toward the development of new high-surface area, single-crystal composite materials.

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