Mineralized natural and synthetic materials have a very complex structure, where inorganic and organic components are linked together. The properties of composite materials are generally controlled by the microstructure and local chemistry. We have investigated several different types of sensitive composite functional materials; (i) natural layered composite functional materials, (ii) man-made nacre inspired hybrid-films and (iii) bio-inspired functional materials.
(i) Many natural materials are highly complex composite or hybrid materials with closely linked organic matrix and inorganic crystalline components that are together forming exceptional architectures. The microstructure and chemical composition of different natural materials, such as abalone shell, human and rodent teeth, have been characterized using a combination of imaging and analytical TEM techniques, in order to identify details and recognize the building strategies of natural composites.
(ii) Natural composite materials have been an inspiration and a model example for hybrid functional man-made materials. The outstanding performance of natural nacre  has inspired the multilayered materials design. Different materials systems possessing important bio-inspired elements and adaptations have been investigated on the nanoscale.
(iii) Although the calcium-phosphate system is widespread and of high importance, several fundamental aspects are not fully understood. In our study, different organic molecules were employed to stabilize unique calcium-phosphate neuron-like structures  consisting of a dense core and thin filaments stretching radially out from the center in a circular form. Energy-loss near-edge fine structures acquired from different neuron-like structures were compared to the spectra acquired from standard calcium-phosphate compounds .
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 The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007-2013] under grant agreement no. 312483 (ESTEEM2).