Bioinspired Materials


Biominerals, such as bones teeth and shells often have physical (mechanical, optical) properties, that in many cases match those of man-made materials and which derive from the high level of control over the structure, size, shape and assembly of the constituents. Biominerals are not only characterized by the well-defined and intimate interaction of organic and inorganic components, but also by their hierarchical structures. A yet unfulfilled dream of many scientists is to synthesize new materials with similar advanced properties applying nature's biomineralization strategies. An absolute prerequisite for the design of such hybrid materials with predetermined structure and properties is to unravel the mechanisms of biologically and biomimetically controlled mineral formation.

By mimicking natural systems in the laboratory we aim at obtaining further insight in the principles of biomineralization, and subsequently explore these in the synthesis of novel hybrid materials. In our bio-inspired mineralization experiments we use both biogenic macromolecules such as collagen and other biomineralization proteins, but synthetic polymers and (macro)molecular assemblies such as polypeptides and Langmuir monolayers, to direct the formation of a variety of minerals, including calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, silica and iron oxides.

To study the processes that lead to the formation of these materials we combine advanced electron microscopic approaches from the field of materials science with the use of cryo-electron microscopy and liquid phase electron microscopy. This provides us with detailed information on the molecular level interaction of the organic and inorganic components in their native hydrated state. In addition we use a combination of SEM and TEM/STEM to bridge between the molecular (<5 nm) and mesoscopic (5 nm - 5mm) scales. This allows us not only to understand the molecular interactions, but also to study the hierarchical structure of these fascinating materials. The information from electron microscopy is complemented with spectroscopic and structural measurements and data from computer controlled titration set ups that we use to synthesize our materials.

This multidisciplinary research would not be possible without the collaborations listed below:

Current collaborators

  • Prof. Jim DeYoreo (PNNL, US): Early stages of mineral formation;
  • Dr. Alexander Kros (Leiden University, NL): Amino acid-based polymers and block copolymers;
  • Prof. Fiona C. Meldrum (Leeds University, UK): Disordered precursors in bio-inspired crystallization;
  • Prof. Helmut Cölfen (University of Konstanz, DE): Investigation of prenucleation clusters:
  • Dr. Atsushi Arakaki (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, JP): Magnetite biomineralization;
  • Dr. Sarah Staniland (Sheffield University, UK): Biomimetic mineralization of magnetite;
  • Prof. Albert Schenning (TU/e Functional Organic Materials and Devices, NL): Polymeric liquid crystalline templates.


Research Projects:

Ongoing Projects:

  • Mineralization of collagen;
  • Bio-inspired synthesis of magnetite;
  • CaCO3 synthesis in hydrogel.

Previous Projects:

For further reading (Review Papers):

F. Nudelman, A.J. Lausch, N.A.J.M. Sommerdijk, E.D. Sone, In vitro models of collagen biomineralization, Journal of Stuctural Biology (Special issue for the 65th birthday of Steve Weiner) 183 [2] 258-269 (2013).

F. Nudelman, N.A.J.M. Sommerdijk, Biomineralization as inspiration for materials chemistry, Angewandte Chemie - International Edition 51 [27] 6582-6596 (2012).

A. Dey, G. de With, N.A.J.M. Sommerdijk, In situ techniques in biomimetic mineralization studies of calcium carbonate, Chemical Society Reviews 39 [2] 397-409 (2010).

N.A.J.M. Sommerdijk, H. Cölfen, Lessons from nature - Biomimetic approaches to minerals with complex structures, MRS Bulletin 35 [2] 116-119 (2010).

N.A.J.M. Sommerdijk, G. de With, Biomimetic CaCO3 mineralization using designer molecules and interfaces, Chemical Reviews 108 [11] 4499-4550 (2008).


  • prof.dr. Nico Sommerdijk
  • dr. Joe Patterson (Post-Doc)
  • Giulia Mirabello (PhD student)
  • Paul Smeets (PhD student)
  • Hao Su (PhD student)