Unstitching the Nanoscopic Mystery of Zeolite Crystal Formation

Brent, Rhea, Cubillas, Pablo, Stevens, Sam M., Jelfs, Kim E., Umemura, Ayako, Gebbie, James T., Slater, Ben, Terasaki, Osamu, Holden, Mark orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3060-7615 et al (2010) Unstitching the Nanoscopic Mystery of Zeolite Crystal Formation. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 132 (39). pp. 13858-13868. ISSN 0002-7863

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja105593v


A molecular-scale understanding of crystal growth is critical to the development of important materials such as pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and catalysts. Only recently has this been possible with the advent of atomic force microscopy that permits observation of nanoscopic features on solid surfaces under a liquid or solution environment. This allows in situ measurement of important chemical transformations such as crystal growth and dissolution. Further, the microscope can access not only an accurate height measurement of surface topography, important to deduce structural elements, but also the forces involved during nanoscopic processes. We have discovered that it is possible to use these features to “illuminate” critical nanoscopic chemical events at crystal surfaces and at the same time extract the associated energies and unstitch the details of the stepwise mechanism of growth and dissolution. This approach has been developed using nanoporous crystals of the heterogeneous catalyst zeolite L; however, in principle the approach could be adapted to many crystal growth problems.

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