Understanding how minerals crystallize and bond in various conditions provides important insights into predicting and controlling their development. It also provides crucial fundamental information for the creation of new materials. Recently, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory used a series of instruments and techniques at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory to help reveal how a type of iron ore develops and binds together via a specific type of crystallization called oriented attachment. Essentially, it forms one-dimensional particle chains that are independent of the material’s original form, shape, and facet, also known as particle morphology.
Specifically at extremely high temperatures in water, nanocrystals of a type of iron ore called hematite change shape to expose what is called the 001 facet, a directional face along the mineral, which aligns to form one-dimensional particle chains. It binds via a precise alignment of particle faces at very small distances, said Xin Zhang, scientist at PNNL. Unlike the classical crystal growth pathway where crystals form by attaching single monomers such as atoms, ions, and molecules, crystallization via oriented attachment is a process in which nanocrystals align their atomic lattices, attach together, and grow into a single crystal. Read more details>>>