Garcia-Ruiz, J. M.; Nakouzi, E.; Kotopoulou, E.; Tamborrino, L.; Steinbock, O., Biomimetic mineral self-organization from silica-rich spring waters. Sci Adv 2017, 3 (3).
Purely inorganic reactions of silica, metal carbonates, and metal hydroxides can produce self-organized complex structures that mimic the texture of biominerals, the morphology of primitive organisms, and that catalyze prebiotic reactions. To date, these fascinating structures have only been synthesized using model solutions. We report that mineral self-assembly can be also obtained from natural alkaline silica-rich water deriving from serpentinization. Specifically, we demonstrate three main types of mineral self-assembly: (i) nanocrystalline biomorphs of barium carbonate and silica, (ii) mesocrystals and crystal aggregates of calcium carbonate with complex biomimetic textures, and (iii) osmosis-driven metal silicate hydrate membranes that form compartmentalized, hollow structures. Our results suggest that silica-induced mineral self-assembly could have been a common phenomenon in alkaline environments of early Earth and Earth-like planets.