Marine sponges provide model for nanoscale materials production: "[Dan] Morse directs the new Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, a UCSB-led initiative funded by a grant of $50 million from the Army Research Office, which operates in partnership with MIT and Caltech. .. his research group discovered that the center of the sponge's fine glass needles contains a filament of protein that controls the synthesis of the needles. By cloning and sequencing the DNA of the gene that codes for this protein, they discovered that the protein is an enzyme that acts as a catalyst, a surprising discovery. Never before had a protein been found to serve as a catalyst to promote chemical reactions to form the glass or a rock-like material of a biomineral. From that discovery, the research group learned that this enzyme actively promotes the formation of the glass while simultaneously serving as a template to guide the shape of the growing mineral (glass) that it produces ..
"we've discovered that these activities can be applied to the synthesis of valuable semiconductors, metal oxides such as titanium and gallium that have photovoltaic and semiconductor properties," says Morse. The group is using a synthetic mimic of the enzymes found in marine sponges. These discoveries are significant because they represent a low temperature, biotechnological, catalytic route to the nanostructural fabrication of valuable materials 12:56:31 AM