vai al contenuto della pagina vai al menu di navigazione

PROMETHEUS - Pattern formation and mineral self-organization in highly alkaline natural environments

15 - Life on land; Research Projects; 2014; 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018; 2019

The precipitation of alkaline-earth carbonates in silica-rich alkaline solutions yields nanocrystalline aggregates that develop
non-crystallographic morphologies. These purely inorganic hierarchical materials, discovered by the IP of this project, form
under geochemically plausible conditions and closely resemble typical biologically induced mineral textures and shapes,
thus the name ‘biomorphs’. The existence of silica biomorphs has questioned the use morphology as an unambiguous
criterion for detection of primitive life remnants. Beyond applications, the study of silica biomorphs has revealed a totally
new morphogenetic mechanism capable of creating crystalline materials with positive or negative constant curvature
and biomineral-like textures which lead to the design of new pathways towards concerted morphogenesis and bottom-up
self-assembly created by a self-triggered chemical coupling mechanism. The potential interest of these fascinating structures
in Earth Sciences has never been explored mostly because of their complexity and multidisciplinary nature. PROMETHEUS
proposes an in depth investigation of the nature of mineral structures such as silica biomorphs and chemical gardens, and the
role of mineral self-organization in extreme alkaline geological environments. The results will impact current understanding
of the early geological and biological history of Earth by pushing forward the unexplored field of inorganic biomimetic pattern
formation. PROMETHEUS will provide this discipline with much needed theoretical and experimental foundations for its
quantitative application to Earth Sciences. The ambitious research program in PROMETHEUS will require the development
of high-end methods and instruments for the non-intrusive in-situ characterization of geochemically important variables,
including pH mapping with microscopic resolution, time resolved imaging of concentration gradients, microscopic fluid
dynamics, and characterization of ultraslow growth rates.

Follow us: