Chitin originating from marine sponges possesses a unique nanofibrillar network structure that is the basic element of the microtubular scaffold-like skeleton of these organisms. Sponge chitin represents an intriguing example of thermostability, as it is stable up to 400 °C. It also constitutes a renewable biological source due to the high regeneration ability of Aplysina sponges under marine farming conditions. These properties can be exploited for the facile and environmentally friendly creation of novel, biocompatible organic-inorganic hybrid materials with a range of uses. Here, chitin-based scaffolds isolated from the skeleton of marine demosponge Aplysina aerophoba were used as a template for the in vitro formation of iron oxide from a saturated iron(III) chloride solution, under hydrothermal conditions (pH~1.5, 90 °C). The resultant chitin-Fe2O3 three dimensional composites, prepared for the first time via hydrothermal synthesis route, were thoroughly characterized using light, fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy; as well as with analytical methods like Raman spectroscopy, electron diffraction and HR-TEM. The results show that this versatile method allows for efficient chitin mineralization with respect to hematite. Additionally, we demonstrate that chitin nanofibers template the nucleation of uniform Fe2O3 nanocrystals.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.