|Posted on August 19, 2015 at 9:05 PM|
Crystal growth is a fascinating order-inducing phenomenon that occurs virtually everywhere around us... in the soil and porous rocks, in the manufacturing fab for semiconducting materials, and even inside plants and animals during freeze-drying or cryopreservation. We already have good theories when crystal growth follows simple atom-by-atom addition to form an ordered crystal. However, when the building blocks are complicated (nanoparticle clusters, liquid drops, ionic clusters, etc.), the underlying principles and mechanisms of their crystal growth are poorly understood. If we could look into crystal growth processes in the complex molecular and supramolecular media that exist in real systems, we could better exploit nanocrystals (say) as a building block for hierarchical design materials, or study crystal formation in the soil or in geological strata. We could even just be fascinated, for purely scientific reasons, by the joy of discovering the theoretical underpinnings of one of the most common phenomena in nature's complex systems.
To tackle this challenge, 15 scholars ranging from soil scientists to computational scientists led by Patricia Dove formed an international collaboration, which blossomed into unveiling an important framework for understanding crystal growth. In a recent article published in Science, the researchers demonstrated a theoretical framework for crystallization by particle attachment (CPA), which has been widely observed in experiments. They describe how the structure of solvent, ions, interface, and confinement influences particle motion, and how - eventually- it leads to particle-attachment events that initiate and later mature crystal growth. This study provides an important tool that could help experimentalists to control and tune crystallization processes that could lead to a wide range of applications.
Patricia Dove is a University Distinguished Professor and C.P. Miles Professor of Science at Virginia Tech University. Her research focuses on studying nature's principles in synthesizing functional materials with remarkable properties - such as teeth, bones, and shells. She is the recipient of the 2013 MSA Dana Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Mineralogical Society of America and a Fellow of the Geochemical Society, the European Association of Geochemistry, and the American Geophysical Union. She was elected to the National Academy of Science in 2012.
- Written by Eugene Choi, Edited by Paulette Clancy
(Photo credit: Provided by and used with permission from Patricia Dove, Dove: credit to Jim Stroup, Virginia Tech, Dove with horse: credit to Joseph Dove).