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Title: Heterogeneous nucleation and growth of nanoparticles at environmental interfaces

Here, mineral nucleation is a phase transformation of aqueous components to solids with an accompanying creation of new surfaces. In this evolutional, yet elusive, process, nuclei often form at environmental interfaces, which provide remarkably reactive sites for heterogeneous nucleation and growth. Naturally occurring nucleation processes significantly contribute to the biogeochemical cycles of important components in the Earth’s crust, such as iron and manganese oxide minerals and calcium carbonate. However, in recent decades, these cycles have been significantly altered by anthropogenic activities, which affect the aqueous chemistry and equilibrium of both surface and subsurface systems. These alterations can trigger the dissolution of existing minerals and formation of new nanoparticles (i.e., nucleation and growth) and consequently change the porosity and permeability of geomedia in subsurface environments. Newly formed nanoparticles can also actively interact with components in natural and engineered aquatic systems, including those posing a significant hazard such as arsenic. These interactions can bilaterally influence the fate and transport of both newly formed nanoparticles and aqueous components. Due to their importance in natural and engineered processes, heterogeneous nucleation at environmental interfaces has started to receive more attention. However, a lack of time-resolved in situ analyses makes the evaluation of heterogeneous nucleation challengingmore » because the physicochemical properties of both the nuclei and surfaces significantly and dynamically change with time and aqueous chemistry. This Account reviews our in situ kinetic studies of the heterogeneous nucleation and growth behaviors of iron(III) (hydr)oxide, calcium carbonate, and manganese (hydr)oxide minerals in aqueous systems. In particular, we utilized simultaneous small-angle and grazing incidence small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/GISAXS) to investigate in situ and in real-time the effects of water chemistry and substrate identity on heterogeneously and homogeneously formed nanoscale precipitate size dimensions and total particle volume. Using this technique, we also provided a new platform for quantitatively comparing between heterogeneous and homogeneous nucleation and growth of nanoparticles and obtaining undiscovered interfacial energies between nuclei and surfaces. In addition, nanoscale surface characterization tools, such as in situ atomic force microscopy (AFM), were utilized to support and complement our findings. With these powerful nanoscale tools, we systematically evaluated the influences of environmentally abundant (oxy)anions and cations and the properties of environmental surfaces, such as surface charge and hydrophobicity. The findings, significantly enhanced by in situ observations, can lead to a more accurate prediction of the behaviors of nanoparticles in the environment and enable better control of the physicochemical properties of nanoparticles in engineered systems, such as catalytic reactions and energy storage.« less
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  1. Washington Univ., St. Louis, MO (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
AC02-06CH11357; AC02-05CH11231; EAR-1424927; CHE-1214090
Published Article
Journal Name:
Accounts of Chemical Research
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 49; Journal Issue: 9; Journal ID: ISSN 0001-4842
American Chemical Society
Research Org:
Washington Univ., St. Louis, MO (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22); USDOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE), Clean Coal and Carbon (FE-20); National Science Foundation (NSF)
Country of Publication:
United States
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1326651