Inspired by the remarkable shapes and properties of CaCO3 biominerals, many studies have investigated biomimetic routes aiming at synthetic equivalents with similar morphological and structural complexity. Control over the morphology of CaCO3 crystals has been demonstrated, among other methods, by the use of additives that selectively allow the development of specific crystal faces, while inhibiting others. Both for biogenic and biomimetic CaCO3, the crystalline state is often preceded by an amorphous precursor phase, but still limited information is available on the details of the amorphous-to-crystalline transition. By using a combination of cryoTEM techniques (bright field imaging, cryo-tomography, low dose electron diffraction and cryo-darkfield imaging), we show for the first time the details of this transition during the formation of hexagonal vaterite crystals grown in the presence of NH4+ ions. The formation of hexagonal plate-like vaterite occurs via an amorphous precursor phase. This amorphous phase converts into the crystalline state through a solid state transformation in which order and morphology develop simultaneously. The mineral initially develops as polycrystalline vaterite which transforms into a single crystal directed by an NH4+-induced crystal plane that acts as a templating surface.
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Materials and Interface Chemistry
Facility/equipment: Research lab