Solid-State Phase Transformation and Self-Assembly of Amorphous Nanoparticles into Higher-Order Mineral Structures

Stanislas Von Euw, Thierry Azaïs, Viacheslav Manichev, Guillaume Laurent, Gérard Pehau-Arnaudet, Margarita Rivers, Nagarajan Murali, Daniel J. Kelly, Paul G. Falkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Materials science has been informed by nonclassical pathways to crystallization, based on biological processes, about the fabrication of damage-tolerant composite materials. Various biomineralizing taxa, such as stony corals, deposit metastable, magnesium-rich, amorphous calcium carbonate nanoparticles that further assemble and transform into higher-order mineral structures. Here, we examine a similar process in abiogenic conditions using synthetic, amorphous calcium magnesium carbonate nanoparticles. Applying a combination of high-resolution imaging and in situ solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we reveal the underlying mechanism of the solid-state phase transformation of these amorphous nanoparticles into crystals under aqueous conditions. These amorphous nanoparticles are covered by a hydration shell of bound water molecules. Fast chemical exchanges occur: the hydrogens present within the nanoparticles exchange with the hydrogens from the surface-bound H2O molecules which, in turn, exchange with the hydrogens of the free H2O molecule of the surrounding aqueous medium. This cascade of chemical exchanges is associated with an enhanced mobility of the ions/molecules that compose the nanoparticles which, in turn, allow for their rearrangement into crystalline domains via solid-state transformation. Concurrently, the starting amorphous nanoparticles aggregate and form ordered mineral structures through crystal growth by particle attachment. Sphere-like aggregates and spindle-shaped structures were, respectively, formed from relatively high or low weights per volume of the same starting amorphous nanoparticles. These results offer promising prospects for exerting control over such a nonclassical pathway to crystallization to design mineral structures that could not be achieved through classical ion-by-ion growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12811-12825
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 22 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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