Nature often uses precursor phases for the controlled development of crystalline materials with well-defined morphologies and unusual properties. Mimicking such a strategy in in vitro model systems would potentially lead to the water-based, room-temperature synthesis of superior materials. In the case of magnetite (Fe3O4), which in biology generally is formed through a ferrihydrite precursor, such approaches have remained largely unexplored. Here we report on a simple protocol that involves the slow coprecipitation of FeIII/FeII salts through ammonia diffusion, during which ferrihydrite precipitates first at low pH values and is converted to magnetite at high pH values. Direct coprecipitation often leads to small crystals with superparamagnetic properties. Conversely, in this approach, the crystallization kinetics—and thereby the resulting crystal sizes—can be controlled through the NH3 influx and the Fe concentration, which results in single crystals with sizes well in the ferrimagnetic domain. Moreover, this strategy provides a convenient platform for the screening of organic additives as nucleation and growth controllers, which we demonstrate for the biologically derived M6A peptide.
Lenders, J. J. M., Altan, C. L., Bomans, P. H. H., Arakaki, A., Bucak, S., With, de, G., & Sommerdijk, N. A. J. M. (2014). A bioinspired coprecipitation method for the controlled synthesis of magnetite nanoparticles. Crystal Growth and Design, 14(11), 5561-5568. https://doi.org/10.1021/cg500816z