Bio-Inspired Crystal Growth

One of nature’s main strategies is growing crystals with improved mechanical and physical properties, usually CaCO3. This improvement (comparing to synthetic crystals), can be achieved by incorporation of organic molecules inside the inorganic crystals, which induce strains and cause cracks deflection. Inspired by nature, it was found that organic molecules, particularly amino acids and proteins, can be incorporated into the crystal lattice of synthetic calcite and induce anisotropic lattice distortions. Moreover, other functional materials such as semiconductors (ZnO) also allow for such incorporation.

Figure 1. Synthesis of the ZnO-amino acids crystals and their band gap as a function of measured lattice strain along c-axis.

Similar to calcium carbonate system, such incorporation induces strains and causes the lattice parameters to change. In the case of ZnO, these strains also create a tunable change in the optical band-gap, which is directly dependent on the amount of molecules that were incorporated.

Moreover, we reported on the formation of hybrid organic-metal composites via the incorporation of selected amino acids into the crystal lattice of single crystals of gold, which is this the first finding of incorporation of organic molecules within the gold lattice.

Figure 2. left. Schematics of gold crystal with incorporated amino acids. Left. The {111} diffraction peak from Au-control and Au-Ala samples before and after heating. a) Au-control before (black) and after (red) annealing at 250ºC for 2 h.



1. Borukhin S, Bloch L, Radlauer T, Hill AH, Fitch AN, Pokroy B. Screening the Incorporation of Amino Acids into an Inorganic Crystalline Host: the Case of Calcite. Adv Funct Mater. 2012;22:4216.

2. Weber E, Bloch L, Guth C, Fitch AN, Weiss IM and Pokroy B. Recombinant biomineralization fusion protein induces anisotropic lattice distortions in synthetic calcite. Chem Mat 2014;26:4925.

3. Brif, A., Ankonina, G., Drathen, C., & Pokroy, B. (2014). Bio‐Inspired Band Gap Engineering of Zinc Oxide by Intracrystalline Incorporation of Amino Acids. Advanced Materials26(3), 477-481.‏

4. Brif, A., Bloch, L., & Pokroy, B. (2014). Bio-inspired engineering of a zinc oxide/amino acid composite: synchrotron microstructure study. CrystEngComm16(16), 3268-3273.‏

5. Chen, L., Polishchuk, I., Weber, E., Fitch, A. N., & Pokroy, B. (2016). Hybrid gold single crystals incorporating amino acids. Crystal Growth & Design16(5), 2972-2978.‏