4 years ago

Spherulitic Growth of Coral Skeletons and Synthetic Aragonite: Nature’s Three-Dimensional Printing

Spherulitic Growth of Coral Skeletons and Synthetic Aragonite: Nature’s Three-Dimensional Printing
Pupa U. P. A. Gilbert, Anthony J. Giuffre, Matthew A. Marcus, Matthew J. Frazier, Tali Mass, Chang-Yu Sun
Coral skeletons were long assumed to have a spherulitic structure, that is, a radial distribution of acicular aragonite (CaCO3) crystals with their c-axes radiating from series of points, termed centers of calcification (CoCs). This assumption was based on morphology alone, not on crystallography. Here we measure the orientation of crystals and nanocrystals and confirm that corals grow their skeletons in bundles of aragonite crystals, with their c-axes and long axes oriented radially and at an angle from the CoCs, thus precisely as expected for feather-like or “plumose” spherulites. Furthermore, we find that in both synthetic and coral aragonite spherulites at the nanoscale adjacent crystals have similar but not identical orientations, thus demonstrating by direct observation that even at nanoscale the mechanism of spherulite formation is non-crystallographic branching (NCB), as predicted by theory. Finally, synthetic aragonite spherulites and coral skeletons have similar angle spreads, and angular distances of adjacent crystals, further confirming that coral skeletons are spherulites. This is important because aragonite grows anisotropically, 10 times faster along the c-axis than along the a-axis direction, and spherulites fill space with crystals growing almost exclusively along the c-axis, thus they can fill space faster than any other aragonite growth geometry, and create isotropic materials from anisotropic crystals. Greater space filling rate and isotropic mechanical behavior are key to the skeleton’s supporting function and therefore to its evolutionary success. In this sense, spherulitic growth is Nature’s 3D printing.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.7b00127

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b00127

You might also like
Discover & Discuss Important Research

Keeping up-to-date with research can feel impossible, with papers being published faster than you'll ever be able to read them. That's where Researcher comes in: we're simplifying discovery and making important discussions happen. With over 19,000 sources, including peer-reviewed journals, preprints, blogs, universities, podcasts and Live events across 10 research areas, you'll never miss what's important to you. It's like social media, but better. Oh, and we should mention - it's free.

  • Download from Google Play
  • Download from App Store
  • Download from AppInChina

Researcher displays publicly available abstracts and doesn’t host any full article content. If the content is open access, we will direct clicks from the abstracts to the publisher website and display the PDF copy on our platform. Clicks to view the full text will be directed to the publisher website, where only users with subscriptions or access through their institution are able to view the full article.