Structural and Chemical Variations in the Skeletal Segments of Coralline Red Algae Lead to Improved Crack Resistance
41 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2021 Publication Status: Accepted
Jania sp. is an articulated coralline red alga that is abundant in the shallow waters of oceans worldwide. We have previously demonstrated that its structure is highly intricate and exhibits hierarchical organization across multiple length scales from the macro to the nano scale. Moreover, we have proven that the inner pores of its structure are helical, conveying the alga greater compliance as compared to a cylindrical configuration. Herein, we reveal new insights on the structure of Jania sp., particularly on its crystallographic variations and the internal elemental distribution of Mg and Ca. We show that the high-Mg calcite cell wall nanocrystals of Jania sp. are arranged in layers with alternating Mg contents. Moreover, we show that this non-homogenous elemental distribution assists the alga in preventing fracture caused by crack propagation. We further discover that each one of the cell wall nanocrystals in Jania sp. is not a single crystal as was previously thought, but rather comprises Mg-rich calcite nanoparticles demonstrating various crystallographic orientations, arranged periodically within the layered structure. We also show that these Mg-rich nanoparticles are present in yet another specie of the coralline red algae, Corallina sp., pointing to the generality of this phenomenon. To the best of our knowledge this is a first report on the existence of Mg-rich nanoparticles in the coralline red algae mineralized tissue. We envisage that our findings on the bio-strategy found in the alga to enhance the fracture toughness will have an impact on the design of structures with superior mechanical properties.
Keywords: Biomineralization; red algae; spinodal decomposition; calcite; transmission electron microscopy
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation