Coherently aligned nanoparticles within a biogenic single crystal: A biological prestressing strategy

Iryna Polishchuk, Avigail Aronhime Bracha, Leonid Bloch, Davide Levy, Stas Kozachkevich, Yael Etinger-Geller, Yaron Kauffmann, Manfred Burghammer, Carlotta Giacobbe, Julie Villanova, Gordon Hendler, Chang Yu Sun, Anthony J. Giuffre, Matthew A. Marcus, Lakshminath Kundanati, Paul Zaslansky, Nicola M. Pugno, Pupa U.P.A. Gilbert, Alex Katsman, Boaz Pokroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


In contrast to synthetic materials, materials produced by organisms are formed in ambient conditions and with a limited selection of elements. Nevertheless, living organisms reveal elegant strategies for achieving specific functions, ranging from skeletal support to mastication, from sensors and defensive tools to optical function. Using state-of-the-art characterization techniques, we present a biostrategy for strengthening and toughening the otherwise brittle calcite optical lenses found in the brittlestar Ophiocoma wendtii. This intriguing process uses coherent nanoprecipitates to induce compressive stresses on the host matrix, functionally resembling the Guinier–Preston zones known in classical metallurgy. We believe that these calcitic nanoparticles, being rich in magnesium, segregate during or just after transformation from amorphous to crystalline phase, similarly to segregation behavior from a supersaturated quenched alloy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1294-1298
Number of pages5
Issue number6368
StatePublished - 8 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.


Helpful scientific discussions with P. Fratzl are acknowledged with thanks. We also thank M. Kalina for help in preparing the TEM samples and M. D'Incau and H. Gourkar (Anton-Paar Pvt. Ltd. India) for help during some of the microindentation experiments. The x-ray diffraction and nanoCT measurements described in this paper were carried out at beamlines ID13, ID22, and ID16B of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Grenoble, France). This work was primarily supported by the Alon Fellowship for Outstanding Young Researchers of the Israeli Council for Higher Education (B.P.) and the RBNI Technion. N.M.P. is supported by the European Commission H2020 under the Graphene Flagship Core 1 no. 696656 (WP14 “Polymer Composites”), under the Future and Emerging Technologies Proactive “Neurofibres” no. 732344, and by Fondazione Caritro under “Self-Cleaning Glasses” no. 2016.0278 to L.K. P.U.P.A.G. acknowledges NSF grant DMR-1603192 and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant DE-FG02-07ER15899. PEEM experiments were done at the Advanced Light Source, which is a DOE Office of Science User Facility supported by grant DE-AC02-05CH11231. The geological dolomite sample was provided courtesy of R. Slaughter (Univ. of Wisconsin, Geology Museum).

FundersFunder number
Alon Fellowship for Outstanding Young Researchers of the Israeli Council for Higher Education
DOE Office of Science
European Commission H2020
RBNI Technion
National Science FoundationDMR-1603192
U.S. Department of EnergyDE-FG02-07ER15899
Office of ScienceDE-AC02-05CH11231
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme732344
European Commission696656
Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Fondazione Cassa Di Risparmio Di Trento E Rovereto2016.0278


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