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Calcareous Foraminiferal Shells as a Template for the Formation of Hierarchal Structures of Inorganic Nanomaterials

Diab, Mahmud, Shreteh, Karam, Volokh, Michael, Abramovich, Sigal, Abdu, Uri, Mokari, Taleb
ACS applied materials & interfaces 2019 v.11 no.6 pp. 6456-6462
Retaria, calcium carbonate, coatings, dyes, ethanol, microorganisms, nanomaterials, oxides, p-nitrophenol, redox reactions, sulfides, surface area, thermal degradation, water purification
A microorganism template approach has been explored for the fabrication of various well-defined three-dimensional (3D) structures. However, most of these templates suffer from small size (few μm), difficulty to remove the template, or low surface area, which affect their potential use in different applications or makes industrial scale-up difficult. Conversely, foraminifer’s microorganisms are large (up to 200 mm), consist of CaCO₃ (easy to dissolve in mild acid), and have a relatively high surface area (≈5 m² g–¹). Herein, we demonstrate the formation of hierarchical structures of inorganic materials using calcareous foraminiferal shells such as Sorites, Globigerinella siphonifera, Lox-ostomina amygdaleformis, Calcarina baculatus or hispida, and Peneroplis planatus. Several techniques, such as thermal decomposition of single-source precursors of metal oxides or sulfides, reduction of metal salts directly on the surfaces, and redox reactions, were used for coating of different shell materials and several hybrid compositions, which possess nanofeatures. Finally, we examined the role of the prepared 3D structures on the reduction of 4-nitrophenol (4-NP), ethanol electrooxidation, and water purification. A remarkable performance was achieved in each application. The hierarchical structure leads to the reduction of 4-NP within several minutes, a 27 mA cm–² current density peak was obtained for ethanol electrooxidation, and more than 95% of the organic dye contaminants were successfully removed. These results show that using foraminiferal shells offers a new way for designing complex hierarchical structures with unique properties.