Diatom shells as stable lightweight structures have been sufficiently researched and the knowledge gained has already been successfully implemented in industrial applications. In contrast to the structures, the knowledge about the underlying cellular processes of shell formation, as well as their nanostructure and performance of the materials is limited.
This is where the tiny single-celled organisms achieve what sounds incredible to engineers: the creation of highly complex and precise geometries in an elegant casting process, made of an energy-efficient, light and very stable material - at ambient temperature and low pressure.
During formation, the building material in dissolved form is transported into special vesicles surrounded by flexible membranes, where it precipitates. These membranes can grow even during the construction process and at the same time be changed in shape by the cytoskeleton. This leads to small-scale shells with complex geometries.