The role of organic molecules and surface chemistry in biotic and abiotic calcium sulphate precipitation

  • Van Driessche, Alexander, (Administrative Promotor)

Project Details


Minerals can be found everywhere in our daily lives, from toothpaste to historical buildings. They also make up the mineralized skeletons of many organisms, including seashells and our bones. To understand how these minerals form is of particular interest not only to biologist by also to geologist because of their widespread occurrence over geologic history. A long-standing question is how do organisms form these mineralized structures? Although many aspects of (bio)mineralization remain obscure, it is clear that nanoquantities of proteins play a pivotal role in the process. Interestingly, similar organic molecules also partake in abiotic precipitation of minerals but at present it is unclear whether a common mechanism exists for both pathways. The control of biomolecules on calcium sulphate precipitation is poorly understood, although this is a major evaporite mineral playing a key role in the global sulphur cycle. We propose to investigate biotic and abiotic processes of calcium sulphate precipitation through direct, nanoscale observations of mineral-water interactions in the presence of organic molecules during growth and nucleation of this mineral system. Quantitative determination of kinetics and thermodynamic properties should shed light on the governing reaction mechanism(s). Insights into the role(s) of biomolecules in crystal formation should improve our interpretation of the evolution of the earth surface and open doors towards new bio-inspired material design.
Effective start/end date1/01/1531/12/15

Flemish discipline codes

  • Biological sciences


  • Applied Biology