Optical properties of in-vitro biomineralised silica
Nature Publishing Group
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Silicon is the second most common element on the Earth's crust and its oxide (SiO(2)) the most abundant mineral. Silica and silicates are widely used in medicine and industry as well as in micro- and nano-optics and electronics. However, the fabrication of glass fibres and components requires high temperature and non-physiological conditions, in contrast to biosilica structures in animals and plants. Here, we show for the first time the use of recombinant silicatein-α, the most abundant subunit of sponge proteins catalyzing biosilicification reactions, to direct the formation of optical waveguides in-vitro through soft microlithography. The artificial biosilica fibres mimic the natural sponge spicules, exhibiting refractive index values suitable for confinement of light within waveguides, with optical losses in the range of 5-10 cm(-1), suitable for application in lab-on-chips systems. This method extends biosilicification to the controlled fabrication of optical components by physiological processing conditions, hardly addressed by conventional technologies.
This work is financially supported by the BIO-LITHO European project (6th Framework Program, NMP). W.E.G. Muller is holder of an ERC Advanced Research Grant.
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Vol. 2, 607
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