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Laser Light Scattering Observations of Liquid–Liquid Phase Separation in a Polymer-Induced Liquid-Precursor (PILP) Mineralization Process

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2011

Elaine DiMasi*
Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton NY 11973
Tianbo Liu
Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton NY 11973
Matthew J. Olszta
University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611
Laurie B. Gower*
University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611
*Email address for correspondence:
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A Polymer-Induced Liquid-Precursor (PILP) process for mineralization of calcium carbonate has been studied in-situ by laser light scattering. Static and dynamic light scattering data were obtained from CaCl2 solutions containing poly(aspartic acid). Under these conditions calcium carbonate mineralizes through a liquid droplet precursor phase when the solution is exposed to the decomposition products of ammonium carbonate. Our measurements probe the integrated scatterer mass and the apparent hydrodynamic radius Rh,app of the droplets as they nucleate and coalesce. The data reveal three stages in the formation of the PILP phase: an early stage of droplet growth to Rh,app ≈ 250 nm; a mid-time stage of fluctuations and polydispersity in particle size; and a final growth period where Rh,app increases from 350 nm to the micron scale. Aggregation of precursor droplets, rather than atom-by-atom growth, is the dominant mechanism of mineral formation under these conditions. With respect to biomineralization, this first observation of 100-nm-scale droplets is significant, implying a possibility to mineralize from the liquid phase within the nanoscale compartments in which many biominerals form.

Research Article
Copyright © Materials Research Society 2005

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Penn State University, State College PA 16802


Present Address: Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA 18015


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