Biophysical Reviews

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 309–329 | Cite as

Mineralization and non-ideality: on nature’s foundry

  • Ashit RaoEmail author
  • Helmut CölfenEmail author


Understanding how ions, ion-clusters and particles behave in non-ideal environments is a fundamental question concerning planetary to atomic scales. For biomineralization phenomena wherein diverse inorganic and organic ingredients are present in biological media, attributing biomaterial composition and structure to the chemistry of singular additives may not provide a holistic view of the underlying mechanisms. Therefore, in this review, we specifically address the consequences of physico-chemical non-ideality on mineral formation. Influences of different forms of non-ideality such as macromolecular crowding, confinement and liquid-like organic phases on mineral nucleation and crystallization in biological environments are presented. Novel prospects for the additive-controlled nucleation and crystallization are accessible from this biophysical view. In this manner, we show that non-ideal conditions significantly affect the form, structure and composition of biogenic and biomimetic minerals.


Biomineralization Crystallization Liquid phase Molecular crowding Non-ideality Nucleation 



AR thanks the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies for its kind support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

Ashit Rao declares that he has no conflicts of interest. Helmut Cölfen declares that he has no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Freiburg Institute for Advanced StudiesAlbert Ludwigs University of FreiburgFreiburg im BreisgauGermany
  2. 2.Physical Chemistry, Department of ChemistryUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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