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Exploitation of Diatom Frustules for Nanotechnology: Tethering Active Biomolecules


  • This work was supported by the EPSRC.


Diatoms are single-celled microalgae with rigid walls (frustules) composed of amorphous silica. The intricate 3D microstructure of diatoms results in a high surface area formed by myriad pores and channels. The combination of the silica chemistry of the frustule coupled with the high surface area makes it particularly suitable for applications such as microscale total analysis systems. Here it is demonstrated that the diatom frustule can be chemically modified for the attachment of antibodies, and that the attached antibodies retain biological activity. These modified structures have potential applications in antibody arrays and may have use in techniques such as immunoprecipitation. These silica structures are produced in diatoms using only light and minimal nutrients and, therefore, generate an exceptionally cheap and renewable material.

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