Mechanical properties of biological structures are far beyond those of structures created by humans. This difference can be explained with the fact that biological organisms synthesize materials that are highly organized in terms of composition and structure.
An example of such inspirational organisms are diatoms – one of the largest and ecologically most significant groups of organisms on Earth which occur almost everywhere. Diatoms are characterized by the presence of a siliceous cell wall called a ‘frustule’. The study of the structure of siliceous components of diatoms is of growing interest for two reasons: a scientific biomimetic approach to learn from nature and a large variety of potential applications utilizing the advantage of mechanical properties.
The internal structure of diatoms, particularly the morphology cell components is visualized nondestructively using high-resolution nano X-ray computed tomography (nano XCT) and compared with a destructive focused ion beam (FIB)-based serial cutting techniques combined with subsequent imaging by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Both approaches provide 3D information about the internal structure of diatom frustules. We will present high-resolution 3D data of the internal structure of diatom frustules based on nano-XCT complemented by FIB/SEM serial cutting. Based on these 3D data we will discuss the functionality of diatom cells and we will draw biomimetic conclusions which are essential for emerging technologies and applications.