Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Theory of crystal formation complete again

20.02.2013
Exactly how a crystal forms from solution is a problem that has occupied scientists for decades.

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), together with researchers from Germany and the USA, are now presenting the missing piece. This classical theory of crystal formation, which occurs widely in nature and in the chemical industry, was under fire for some years, but is saved now.

The team made this breakthrough by detailed study of the crystallization of the mineral calcium phosphate –the major component of our bones. The team published their findings yesterday in the online journal Nature Communications.

Crystallization is the formation of a solid ordered substance, such as happens when water freezes. In nature, crystals are mostly formed from ions which are dissolved in water, as for example in the formation of shells or bone. This involves the clustering of ions into increasingly large nuclei, until a crystal is formed when a certain size is reached. However, the details of this growth process have been the subject of discussion for many years.

According to the existing theories, it is individual ions that group together to form crystal nuclei. But in 2009 chemists led by dr. Nico Sommerdijk (TU/e) showed the presence of an intermediate step in the growth process of calcium carbonate crystals. The ions were thought to first form small clusters, which then grow into crystal nuclei. This finding, which was the cover story of Science, caused controversy because it appeared to contradict the classical crystallization theories which did not allow for such an intermediate step.

Now Sommerdijk is having second thoughts about his 2009 conclusions. At least, the answer now turns out to be more subtle than was thought at that time. Together with researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA, he looked more closely at the role of these so-called pre-nucleation clusters in the growth process of the mineral calcium phosphate. Using a cryo-electron microscope, which makes images of deep-frozen samples, he was able to identify the precise components of the clusters and study the growth process in detail.

In their article in Nature Communications Sommerdijk concludes that the clusters do not form a clearly defined intermediate step, but instead are part of a gradual growth process. Sommerdijk refers to the formation of clusters as a 'false start' by the ions, because the clusters already start to organize themselves step by step while still in solution, without actually forming growth nuclei. This new understanding means the existing theories no longer need to be overturned. Sommerdijk's team now complete the theory by describing alternative 'pathways' along which crystals can form. Sommerdijk's new conclusions have since been confirmed in a second study into crystal formation in the mineral magnetite, which was published online this month in Nature Materials.

In recent years both the role and the composition of the pre-nucleation clusters were the subject of intense scientific discussions, for example last summer during the prestigious Faraday Discussions. There were also disagreements within the team itself about Sommerdijk's new interpretation. Some team members held onto the original scenario, even after numerous new experiments had confirmed that the clusters did not have the same composition and role as believed earlier. Finally it was decided to submit the article, which after four years of experimenting and revision had reached a final length of almost 100 pages, without the names of the team members who were unable to accept the new ideas.

In Sommerdijk's view the most important questions about the formation of crystals have now been answered. This theoretical knowledge is important in many fields, because of the widespread occurrence of crystallization in nature and in the chemical industry. Just a few examples are the formation of coral in the sea, the production of pharmaceuticals and the design of nanoparticles. It could for example help to make production processes less costly, faster or more energy-efficient.

The article 'Ion-association complexes unite classical and non-classical theories for the biomimetic nucleation of calcium phosphate' will be published on 19 February in Nature Communications, DOI 10.1038/ncomms2490.

The article 'Nucleation and growth of magnetite from solution', to which Nico Sommerdijk also contributed, was published online on 3 February in Nature Materials, DOI 10.1038/nmat3558.

Ivo Jongsma | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tue.nl

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Tiny songbird discovered to migrate non-stop, 1,500 miles over the Atlantic
01.04.2015 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht The 'intraterrestrials': New viruses discovered in ocean depths
01.04.2015 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fliegende Tankstellen könnten den Luftverkehr revolutionieren

Langstreckenflugzeuge sollen künftig mit wenig Treibstoff starten und erst in 10 000 Metern Höhe vollgetankt werden. Auf diese Weise liesse sich rund 20 Prozent Kerosin einsparen. In einem europäischen Forschungsprojekt hat die ZHAW zusammen mit Partnerinstitutionen aus fünf Ländern ein solches Konzept für die Luftfahrt entwickelt.

In Sachen Energieeffizienz ist bei Flugzeugen noch viel Luft nach oben: Denn auch modernste Langstreckenflugzeuge wie der Airbus A380 oder die Boeing 787 sind...

Im Focus: Aktuelle Maßnahmen gegen Mikroplastik

Worst Case: Sonntagnachmittag, erste Radtour bei schönem Wetter. Ein Autofahrer rast vorbei und wirft seine PET-Getränkeflasche achtlos in den Graben. Das Material der Flasche wurde aus Rohöl hergestellt und wird einige hundert Jahre benötigen, bis es zersetzt ist. Vollständig abgebaut wird es nie, zurück bleiben winzige Teilchen ­ das sogenannte Mikroplastik. Fraunhofer UMSICHT begegnet den kleinen Kunststoffpartikeln in zwei aktuellen Maßnahmen.

Die »Initiative Mikroplastik« möchte durch die Initiierung von Forschungs- und Entwicklungs-Vorhaben die Mengen und Sorten an Mikroplastik in der Umwelt...

Im Focus: Smarte Fassaden mit Energiespareffekt

Gläserne Bürobauten gehören zu den großen Energiefressern. Sie müssen aufwändig klimatisiert werden. Ein von Fraunhofer-Forschern und Designern entwickeltes Fassadenelement für Glasfronten soll den Energieverbrauch senken. Dazu nutzt es die Wärmenergie der Sonne. Ein Demonstrator ist auf der Hannover Messe zu sehen.

Fast 40 Prozent beträgt der Anteil von Gebäuden am gesamten Energieverbrauch in Deutschland. Das Heizen, Kühlen und Lüften von Wohnhäusern, Büroimmobilien und...

Im Focus: Lizard activity levels can help scientists predict environmental change

Research study provides new tools to assess warming temperatures

Spring is here and ectotherms, or animals dependent on external sources to raise their body temperature, are becoming more active. Recent studies have shown...

Im Focus: Der Werkstoff macht’s: Nichtoxidkeramik eröffnet neue Perspektiven für den Chemie- und Anlagenbau

Herausragende chemische, thermische und tribologische Eigenschaften prädestinieren siliziuminfiltriertes Siliziumcarbid für die Produktion großvolumiger keramischer Bauteile.

Ein neuartiges Verfahren überwindet nun verfahrenstechnischen Grenzen konventioneller Formgebungsmethoden. Dadurch können  Komponenten mit großen...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Holzbau mit Bestand - Thema der Norddeutschen Holzbautagung 2015

01.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Training für LNG-Anwender aus dem maritimen und nichtmaritimen Bereich

01.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Wie lässt sich Nachhaltigkeit messen und bewerten?

01.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Fliegende Tankstellen könnten den Luftverkehr revolutionieren

01.04.2015 | Energie und Elektrotechnik

Biogas und Ökostrom: TU Wien präsentiert Energiespeicherkonzept

01.04.2015 | HANNOVER MESSE

Sensor + Test 2015: Hochleistungs-Magnetsensoren günstig herstellen

01.04.2015 | Messenachrichten