Understanding the molecular mechanism controlling the nanofabrication of
the diatom shell and explaining the generation of the stunning diversity
of patterns is a major goal in the field. Based on the amphiphilic
properties of long-chain polyamines, a phase separation model has been
proposed that is able to explain the nanopatterning of biosilica (Sumper,
Repeated phase separation events during wall biogenesis are assumed to
produce self-similar silica patterns in smaller and smaller scales. Based
on this single assumption, it is possible to predict the apparently
complex patterns found in the valves of the diatom genus Coscinodiscus.
High resolution SEM analysis of valves in statu nascendi from
different Coscinodiscus species supports the conclusions derived
from the model.