Biomineralisation is a natural process that is employed by all organisms to produce mineralised tissues optimised to perform specific functions. These materials are highly complex and possess hierarchical structure, for example, bone exhibiting multiple levels of 3D hierarchy, is formed by a network of collagen fibrils and hydroxyapatite (calcium phosphate) crystals. Nucleation of such minerals and their subsequent growth to the final crystalline form are the most fundamental processes associated with biomineralisation. Despite its high importance and many thorough studies, the understanding of this dynamic process is vague, which can to a large extent be attributed to the fact that observation of crystal nucleation remains difficult. The ICONIC project aims to obtain a fundamental understanding of the biomineralisation mechanism by imaging and studying the dynamic pathway from the earliest nucleation events to the final mineral phases. The project objective will be accomplished by developing time resolved X-ray imaging techniques in combination with biomimetic crystallisation protocols to regulate nucleation and growth. ICONIC is an interdisciplinary research project that assembles an international research team from complementary fields of X-ray physics, material science, crystal chemistry, and computation and data analyses. To this extend, extensive experiments have been performed in house at NTNU as well as in large European facilities e.g. ESRF using Calcium carbonate as the model system. Preliminary results indicate the fine interplay between crystallisation conditions e.g. temperature and concentration , and the 3D morphology of calcium carbonate particles. It must be mentioned here that nucleation is a topic of great importance for many industrial sectors such as pharma, food and electronics. So, the knowledge generated from ICONIC is expected to have profound influence, particularly in pharmaceutical, biomedical and environmental research.
Biomineralisation is a key natural process that all organisms employ to produces a wide range of materials with highly complex and hierarchical structures. To achieve fundamental understanding of the processes leading to biomineralisation, it is necessary to first focus on the earliest nucleation stages and subsequent growth from various possible precursor phases to the final mineral phases. Despite its high importance and many thorough studies, the understanding of this dynamic process is vague, which can to a large extent be attributed to the fact that observation of crystal nucleation remains difficult. ICONIC aims to use recent breakthroughs in state-of-the-art 3D Coherent X-ray Diffraction Imaging (CXDI) to directly image and understand the biomineralisation pathway from molecule to crystal. The development of dynamic CXDI proposed in ICONIC is implemented in combination with time-resolved Small- and Wide-Angle X-ray Scattering and tested by studying model biominerals - calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate and calcium oxalate monohydrate. Key objectives of ICONIC involve the implementation of biomimetic crystallization protocols to regulate nucleation and growth using microfluidic sample environments and development of liquid phase CXDI to monitor dynamic processes. The proposed technique of dynamic CXDI is a hot research topic at synchrotron beamlines across the world and it is emerging as one of the flagship experimental methods. The ICONIC project is thus very timely and assembles an international team of world leading experts from complementary fields of X-ray physics, imaging and materials science to execute its "high risk high gain" research objectives. With the ICONIC project, it is expected that Norwegian scientific community will play pioneering role in this emerging research field.