Droplet Microfluidics XRD Identifies Effective Nucleating Agents for Calcium Carbonate

Levenstein, Mark A., Anduix-Canto, Clara, Kim, Yi-Yeoun, Holden, Mark orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3060-7615, Gonzalez Nino, Carlos, Green, David C., Foster, Stephanie E., Kulak, Alexander N., Govada, Lata et al (2019) Droplet Microfluidics XRD Identifies Effective Nucleating Agents for Calcium Carbonate. Advanced Functional Materials, 29 (19). p. 1808172. ISSN 1616-301X

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.201808172


The ability to control crystallization reactions is required in a vast range of processes including the production of functional inorganic materials and pharmaceuticals and the prevention of scale. However, it is currently limited by a lack of understanding of the mechanisms underlying crystal nucleation and growth. To address this challenge, it is necessary to carry out crystallization reactions in well‐defined environments, and ideally to perform in situ measurements. Here, a versatile microfluidic synchrotron‐based technique is presented to meet these demands. Droplet microfluidic‐coupled X‐ray diffraction (DMC‐XRD) enables the collection of time‐resolved, serial diffraction patterns from a stream of flowing droplets containing growing crystals. The droplets offer reproducible reaction environments, and radiation damage is effectively eliminated by the short residence time of each droplet in the beam. DMC‐XRD is then used to identify effective particulate nucleating agents for calcium carbonate and to study their influence on the crystallization pathway. Bioactive glasses and a model material for mineral dust are shown to significantly lower the induction time, highlighting the importance of both surface chemistry and topography on the nucleating efficiency of a surface. This technology is also extremely versatile, and could be used to study dynamic reactions with a wide range of synchrotron‐based techniques.

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