Spectroscopic Discrimination of Sorghum Silica Phytoliths

Victor M.R. Zancajo*, Sabrina Diehn, Nurit Filiba, Gil Goobes, Janina Kneipp, Rivka Elbaum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Grasses accumulate silicon in the form of silicic acid, which is precipitated as amorphous silica in microscopic particles termed phytoliths. These particles comprise a variety of morphologies according to the cell type in which the silica was deposited. Despite the evident morphological differences, phytolith chemistry has mostly been analysed in bulk samples, neglecting differences between the varied types formed in the same species. In this work, we extracted leaf phytoliths from mature plants of Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench. Using solid state NMR and thermogravimetric analysis, we show that the extraction methods alter greatly the silica molecular structure, its condensation degree and the trapped organic matter. Measurements of individual phytoliths by Raman and synchrotron FTIR microspectroscopies in combination with multivariate analysis separated bilobate silica cells from prickles and long cells, based on the silica molecular structures and the fraction and composition of occluded organic matter. The variations in structure and composition of sorghum phytoliths suggest that the biological pathways leading to silica deposition vary between these cell types.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1571
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 11 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2019 Zancajo, Diehn, Filiba, Goobes, Kneipp and Elbaum.


  • Raman
  • biosilicification
  • phytoliths
  • solid state NMR
  • sorghum
  • synchrotron FTIR


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