In situ TEM imaging of CaCO3 nucleation reveals coexistence of direct and indirect pathways

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Science  05 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6201, pp. 1158-1162
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254051

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Watching nucleation pathways in calcite

The initial stage of crystallization, the formation of nuclei, is a critical process, but because of the length and time scales involved, is hard to observe. Nielsen et al. explored the crystallization of calcium carbonate, a well-studied material but one with multiple nucleation theories. Different calcium and carbonate solutions were mixed inside a fluid cell and imaged using a liquid cell inside a transmission electron microscope. Competing pathways operated during nucleation, with both the direct association of ions into nuclei from solution and the transformation of amorphous calcium carbonate into and between different crystalline polymorphs.

Science, this issue p. 1158