The biogeochemical silicon cycle is the focus for many researchers studying the dissolution of silicon species from quartz, amorphous, and biogenic silica. Furthermore, the precipitation of biogenic silica by diatoms, radiolarian, sponges, and plants is also a popular focus for research. The ornate silica structures created by these species has attracted interest from biomaterial scientists and biochemists who have studied mineral formation in an attempt to understand how biogenic silica is formed, often in the presence of proteins and long chain polyamines. This article is at the interface of these seemingly distinct research areas. Here we investigate the effect of a range of amines in globally undersaturated silicon environments. Results are presented on the effect of amine-containing molecules on the formation of silica from undersaturated solutions of orthosilicic acid and globally undersaturated silicon environments. We sought to address two questions: can silica be precipitated/harvested from undersaturated solutions, and can we identify the silicon species that are most active in silica formation? We demonstrate that none of the bioinspired additives investigated here (e.g., poly(allylamine hydrochloride), pentaethylenehexamine, and propylamines) have any influence on orthosilicic acid at undersaturated concentrations. However, under globally undersaturated silicon concentrations, small molecules and polymers containing amine groups were able to interact with oligomers of silicic acid to either generate aggregated materials that can be isolated from solution or increase rates of oligomer dissolution back to orthosilicic acid. Additional outcomes of this study include an extended understanding of how polyelectrolytes and small molecules can promote and/or inhibit silica dissolution and a new method to explore how (bio)organic molecules interact with a forming mineral phase.
- biogeochemical silicon
- mineral forming