Dynamic Control Over Mineralisation
DYNAMIN is a 5 year €2.6 million research programme funded by the ERC that began in September 2018, and is based at the University of Leeds in the UK.
This project takes inspiration from nature and is using tools from biomineralisation to achieve dynamic control over crystallisation processes. Developing our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of crystal formation will allow us to selectively inhibit or promote crystallisation, and thus to tailor the properties of crystalline materials for use in specific applications. In biomineralisation, living organisms achieve a level of control over crystallisation that is currently unparalleled in synthetic systems. Biominerals are formed in controlled environments, where the organism interacts with the nascent mineral in order to direct crystallisation. Thanks to recent advances in microfabrication and analytical techniques, we are now able to mimic this control in the laboratory.
In DYNAMIN we use microfluidic and confined systems to study and manipulate crystallisation processes with precise spatial and temporal resolution. Droplet generating flow devices are being combined with synchrotron techniques to study how soluble and particulate additives alter the nucleation and growth during the early stages of crystal formation. Static chambers are used to interact with crystallisation processes that occur on longer length and time scales, achieving spatio-temporal control to rival that seen in biomineralisation. We are building novel systems that will allow us to probe how organic molecules, such as biomineralisation proteins, assemble, interact and mineralise within confined systems. Finally, we are developing a simple method to trigger the transformation of amorphous precursor phases to single crystal products, a key strategy employed in biological crystallisation processes.
DYNAMIN allows us to construct a new framework for observing and directing crystallisation processes. These will have applications in a range of sectors, including: the environment, chemical industries, development of advanced materials, and healthcare.