Many organisms construct structural ceramic (biomineral) composites from seemingly mundane materials; cell-mediated processes control both the nucleation and growth of mineral and the development of composite microarchitecture. Living systems fabricate biocomposites by: (i) confining biomineralization within specific subunit compartments; (ii) producing a specific mineral with defined crystal size and orientation; and (iii) packaging many incremental units together in a moving front process to form fully densified, macroscopic structures. By adapting biological principles, materials scientists are attempting to produce novel materials. To date, neither the elegance of the biomineral assembly mechanisms nor the intricate composite microarchitectures have been duplicated by nonbiological processing. However, substantial progress has been made in the understanding of how biomineralization occurs, and the first steps are now being taken to exploit the basic principles involved.
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