Molecular dynamics simulation study of the early stages of nucleation of iron oxyhydroxide nanoparticles in aqueous solutions
Nucleation is a fundamental step in crystal growth. Of environmental and materials relevance are reactions that lead to nucleation of iron oxyhydroxides in aqueous solutions. These reactions are difficult to study experimentally due to their rapid kinetics. Here, we used classical molecular dynamics simulations to investigate nucleation of iron hydroxide/oxyhydroxide nanoparticles in aqueous solutions. Results show that in a solution containing ferric ions and hydroxyl groups, iron–hydroxyl molecular clusters form by merging ferric monomers, dimers, and other oligomers, driven by strong affinity of ferric ions to hydroxyls. When deprotonation reactions are not considered in the simulations, these clusters aggregate to form small iron hydroxide nanocrystals with a six-membered ring-like layered structure allomeric to gibbsite. By comparison, in a solution containing iron chloride and sodium hydroxide, the presence of chlorine drives cluster assembly along a different direction to form long molecular chains (rather than rings) composed of Fe–O octahedra linked by edge sharing. Further, in chlorine-free solutions, when deprotonation reactions are considered, the simulations predict ultimate formation of amorphous iron oxyhydroxide nanoparticles with local atomic structure similar to that of ferrihydrite nanoparticles. Overall, our simulation results reveal that nucleation of iron oxyhydroxide nanoparticles proceeds via a cluster aggregation-based nonclassical pathway.
- Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States). Dept. of Earth and Planetary Science.
- Lawrence Berkeley National Lab., Berkeley, CA (United States). Earth Sciences Div.
- Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States). Dept. of Earth and Planetary Science; Lawrence Berkeley National Lab., Berkeley, CA (United States). Earth Sciences Div.
- Publication Date:
- Grant/Contract Number:
- AC02-05CH11231; NSF CHE-1213835
- Published Article
- Journal Name:
- Journal of Physical Chemistry. B, Condensed Matter, Materials, Surfaces, Interfaces and Biophysical Chemistry
- Additional Journal Information:
- Journal Volume: 119; Journal Issue: 33; Journal ID: ISSN 1520-6106
- American Chemical Society
- Research Org:
- Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
- Sponsoring Org:
- USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
- Country of Publication:
- United States
- OSTI Identifier:
- Alternate Identifier(s):
- OSTI ID: 1214161