New insights into the nucleation of magnesium hydroxide and the influence of poly(acrylic acid) during the early stages of Mg(OH)2 crystallisation
2022-11-17, Scheck, Johanna, Berg, John K., Drechsler, Markus, Kempter, Andreas, Van Driessche, Alexander E. S., Cölfen, Helmut, Gebauer, Denis, Kellermeier, Matthias
Nucleation is a unique process with broad relevance across a wide range of scientific disciplines and applications. While considerable progress in the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the nucleation of minerals from solution has been made for popular model systems such as calcium carbonate, corresponding detailed insights are still missing for other, less prominent minerals. Here, we present a potentiometric titration-based method that allows the early stages of the crystallisation of brucite, Mg(OH)2, to be monitored and quantified. Together with complementary characterisation provided by (cryogenic) transmission electron microscopy, the collected data shed novel light on the species occurring prior to, during, and after nucleation of brucite. In the second part of the work, the newly developed approach was applied to investigate the effects of added poly(acrylic acid) on the different stages of the crystallisation process. The polymer is found to stabilise brucite nanoplatelets and co-precipitate with the inorganic phase, yielding a composite material. The methodology established in this study can readily be used to screen other chemistries for their ability to prevent magnesium hydroxide scaling and/or afford brucite nanomaterials with tailored properties.
A straightforward treatment of activity in aqueous CaCO3 solutions and the consequences for nucleation theory
2014-02, Kellermeier, Matthias, Picker, Andreas, Kempter, Andreas, Cölfen, Helmut, Gebauer, Denis
The aqueous calcium carbonate system is rigorously investigated with respect to ionic activity. Ideal treatment is found to be a good approximation at relevant concentrations. The data further show that bound CaCO3 species cannot be regarded as "inactive" during nucleation but rather appear to play a key role in the phase-separation process, and that amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) can be precipitated from much lower levels of supersaturation than previously believed.
Colloidal Stabilization of Calcium Carbonate Prenucleation Clusters with Silica
2012, Kellermeier, Matthias, Gebauer, Denis, Melero-García, Emilio, Drechsler, Markus, Talmon, Yeshayahu, Kienle, Lorenz, Cölfen, Helmut, García-Ruiz, Juan Manuel, Kunz, Werner
Calcium carbonate precipitation proceeds via a complex multistage scenario involving neutral ion clusters as precursors and amorphous phases as intermediates, which finally transform to crystals. Although the existence of stable clusters in solution prior to nucleation has been demonstrated, the molecular mechanisms by which they precipitate are still obscure. Here, direct insight into the processes that drive the transformation of individual clusters into amorphous nanoparticles is provided by progressive colloidal stabilization of different transient states in silica-containing environments. Nucleation of calcium carbonate in the presence of silica can only take place via cluster aggregation at low pH values. At higher pH, prenucleation clusters become colloidally stabilized and cannot aggregate. Nucleation through structural reorganization within the clusters is not observed under these conditions, indicating that this pathway is blocked by kinetic and/or thermodynamic means. The degree of stabilization against nucleation is found to be sufficient to allow for a dramatic enrichment of solutions with prenucleation clusters and enable their isolation into the dry state. This approach renders direct analyses of the clusters by conventional techniques possible and is thus likely to facilitate deeper insight into the chemistry and structure of these elusive species in the future.
Growth of organic crystals via attachment and transformation of nanoscopic precursors
2017-06-21, Jiang, Yuan, Kellermeier, Matthias, Gebauer, Denis, Lu, Zihao, Rosenberg, Rose, Moise, Adrian, Przybylski, Michael, Cölfen, Helmut
A key requirement for the understanding of crystal growth is to detect how new layers form and grow at the nanoscale. Multistage crystallization pathways involving liquid-like, amorphous or metastable crystalline precursors have been predicted by theoretical work and have been observed experimentally. Nevertheless, there is no clear evidence that any of these precursors can also be relevant for the growth of crystals of organic compounds. Herein, we present a new growth mode for crystals of DL-glutamic acid monohydrate that proceeds through the attachment of preformed nanoscopic species from solution, their subsequent decrease in height at the surface and final transformation into crystalline 2D nuclei that eventually build new molecular layers by further monomer incorporation. This alternative mechanism provides a direct proof for the existence of multistage pathways in the crystallization of molecular compounds and the relevance of precursor units larger than the monomeric constituents in the actual stage of growth.
Investigating the early stages of mineral precipitation by potentiometric titration andanalytical ultracentrifugation
2013, Kellermeier, Matthias, Cölfen, Helmut, Gebauer, Denis
Despite the importance of crystallization for various areas of research, our understanding of the early stages of the mineral precipitation from solution and of the actual mechanism of nucleation is still rather limited. Indeed, detailed insights into the processes underlying nucleation may enable a systematic development of novel strategies for controlling mineralization, which is highly relevant for fields ranging from materials chemistry to medicine. In this work, we describe experimental aspects of a quantitative assay, which relies on pH titrations combined with in situ metal ion potentiometry and conductivity measurements. The assay has originally been designed to study the crystallization of calcium carbonate, one of the most abundant biominerals. However, the developed procedures can also be readily applied to any compound containing cations for which ion-selective electrodes are available. Besides the possibility to quantitatively assess ion association prior to nucleation and to directly determine thermodynamic solubility products of precipitated phases, the main advantage of the crystallization assay is the unambiguous identification of the different stages of precipitation (i.e., prenucleation, nucleation, and early postnucleation) and the characterization of the multiple effects of additives. Furthermore, the experiments permit targeted access to distinct precursor species and intermediate stages, which thus can be analyzed by additional methods such as cryo-electron microscopy or analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC). Regarding ion association in solution, AUC detects entities significantly larger than simple ion pairs, so-called prenucleation clusters. Sedimentation coefficient values and distributions obtained for the calcium carbonate system are discussed in light of recent insights into the structural nature of prenucleation clusters.
Pre-nucleation clusters as solute precursors in crystallisation
2014-04-07, Gebauer, Denis, Kellermeier, Matthias, Gale, Julian D., Bergström, Lennart, Cölfen, Helmut
Crystallisation is at the heart of various scientific disciplines, but still the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying phase separation and the formation of the first solid particles in aqueous solution is rather limited. In this review, classical nucleation theory, as well as established concepts of spinodal decomposition and liquid–liquid demixing, is introduced together with a description of the recently proposed pre-nucleation cluster pathway. The features of pre-nucleation clusters are presented and discussed in relation to recent modifications of the classical and established models for phase separation, together with a review of experimental work and computer simulations on the characteristics of pre-nucleation clusters of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, iron(oxy)(hydr)oxide, silica, and also amino acids as an example of small organic molecules. The role of pre-nucleation clusters as solute precursors in the emergence of a new phase is summarized, and the link between the chemical speciation of homogeneous solutions and the process of phase separation via pre-nucleation clusters is highlighted.
The multiple effects of amino acids on the early stages of calcium carbonate crystallization
2012, Picker, Andreas, Kellermeier, Matthias, Seto, Jong, Gebauer, Denis, Cölfen, Helmut
Proteins have found their way into many of Nature’s structures due to their structural stability, diversity in function and composition, and ability to be regulated as well as be regulators themselves. In this study, we investigate the constitutive amino acids that make up some of these proteins which are involved in CaCO3 mineralization – either in nucleation, crystal growth, or inhibition processes. By assaying all 20 amino acids with vapor diffusion and in situ potentiometric titration, we have found specific amino acids having multiple effects on the early stages of CaCO3 crystallization. These same amino acids have been independently implicated as constituents in liquid-like precursors that form mineralized tissues, processes believed to be key effects of biomineralization proteins in several biological model systems.