Extreme biomimetics – the search for natural sources of materials engineering inspiration

phys.org | 7/17/2019 | Staff
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Biologically inspired engineering to produce biomimetic materials and scaffolds typically occurs at the micro- or nanoscale. In a new study on Science Advances, Iaroslav Petrenko and a multidisciplinary global research team, proposed the use of naturally pre-fabricated, three-dimensional (3-D) spongin scaffolds to preserve molecular detail across larger, centimeter-scale samples. During materials characterization studies, researchers require large-scale samples to test nanoscale features. The naturally occurring collagenous resource contained a fine-scale structure, stable at temperatures of up to 12000C with potential to produce up to 4 x 10 cm 3-D microfibrous and nanoporous graphite for characterization and catalytic applications. The new findings showed exceptionally preserved nanostructural features of triple-helix collagen in the turbostratic (misaligned) graphite. The carbonized sponge resembled the shape and unique microarchitecture of the original spongin scaffold. The researchers then copper electroplated the composites to form a hybrid material with excellent catalytic performance observed in both fresh water and marine environments.

Extreme biomimetics is the search for natural sources of engineering inspiration, to offer solutions to existing synthetic strategies. Bioengineers and materials scientists aim to create inorganic-organic hybrid materials that are resistant to harsh chemical and thermal microenvironments to mimic naturally prefabricated 3-D architecture. For example, scientists have used marine sponges as a productive model system to develop new, hierarchically structured 3-D composites with renewable, non-toxic organic scaffolds. During its evolution 600 million years ago, marine demosponges had produced constructs ranging from the centimeter to meter scale, with potential applications at present in materials research.

Component - Sponge - Skeleton - Spongin - Collagen

The fibrous component of the sponge skeleton known as spongin, belongs to the collagen suprafamily and is the focus in materials engineering due to its nano-architectural organization and biomechanical behavior. Structurally, collagen-like spongin has multiple levels, consisting of 100 µm-thick single fibers and nanofibers, combined into complex 3-D hierarchical networks of high macro-porosity. Due to spongin's thermostability...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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