Brilliant bacterial biominerals: From early Earth survival to modern biotech solutions
|Dates:||5 December 2018|
|Times:||13:00 - 14:00|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences|
|Who is it for:||University staff, Current University students|
|Speaker:||Professor Vernon Phoenix|
Our speaker is Professor Vernon Phoenix from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde.
Bacteria play a key role in the generation of minerals, either via metabolic processes or via acting as nucleation sites.
This important role in mineral formation has existed since the very first bacteria evolved on Earth billions of years ago.
The formation of bacterially generated minerals (biominerals) can provide significant advantages, either to the bacteria
that have generated them, or by us where we can use them in a range of (bio)technologies. For example, the first
photosynthesising bacteria which evolved on Earth many billions of years ago had to live in a hostile environment bathed
with extremely harmful doses of ultraviolet radiation. The fossil record demonstrates that these organisms were encrusted
in amorphous silica coatings, likely a result of the rich silica content of the oceans at that time. Our work has shown how
these silica coatings acted as a Precambrian sun-screen, blocking out harmful wavelengths of UV while allowing the light
needed for photosynthesis to pass through to the organism. Thus these silica biominerals likely played a key role in enabling
the oxygenation of our atmosphere. Today, biominerals can be used in a range of technologies. Our work focusses on the use
of bacterially generated calcites in the civil engineering sector. Bacteria, in the presence of urea and dissolved calcium, can
generate vast quantities of calcite which can be used as an alternative to cements and grouts. This can be used to seal fractures
in geological disposal facilities, stabilize soil and repair building materials. Advancing on this, we are now exploring how we can
tune the mechanical properties of these biominerals to generate mechanically superior materials for civil engineering applications.
Coffee and tea will be available after the seminar in the first floor foyer of the Williamson Building.
Professor Vernon Phoenix
Role: Lecturer in Geochemistry/Geomicrobiology
Organisation: University of Strathclyde Glasgow
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