Calcium carbonate micro-plate (coccolith) formation by calcifying phytoplankton (coccolithophores) is one of the most remarkable examples for biological mineralization. The exoskeleton of these organisms consists of 15-120 coccoliths, which can be composed of highly sophisticated and delicate structures. Coccolith design is unique for every species. Therefore, these particles possess particular physical characteristics, which makes them attractive for industrial application, i.e. as particles or components for composite materials within micro- and nano technology, semiconductor industries and laser optics.
The cooperation project ZeBiCa2 “cell-free biomineralization of calcium carbonate: A path to in-vitro synthesis of highly structured composite materials” explores how the process of coccolith formation in the model organism Emiliania huxleyi can be transferred to cell-independent systems. To achieve this objective, it is important to understand in-vivo biomineralization in the first place, thus identifying all important actuators involved in the process. On this account it is a first goal to develop an optimized photo-bioprocess focusing on coccolith-production, growth kinetics and energy balance. The bioprocess will be established in plate-reactors. Those are model photo-bioreactors of 200-1000 ml volume, which support an environment for controlled cultivation. Using modern omics-technology (metabolome and transcriptome analysis) will allow for detailed investigation of coccolith formation within the cell. The subsequent development of a multi-stage downstream strategy will facilitate the separation of complete, intact coccoliths, available for particle-technological characterization and future applications.