Using biominerals as an inspiration, Livermore physicist Jim De Yoreo and his LLNL research team have determined a key factor in how to manipulate the shapes of crystals.
In a series of experiments using an atomic force microscope, De Yoreos team and that of Patricia Dove, a geoscientist from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, used four different biomolecules to study their effects on the dynamics of atomic steps during crystallization. They set out to test a two-decade-old model of crystal-shape modification believed to be at odds with classic theories of crystal growth. Their results appear in the Nov. 19 issue of the journal, Science.
The main focus of the work was on the mineral calcite, which has more than 300 identified crystal forms that can combine to produce at least a thousand different crystal variations. Crystals can form a thousand different shapes by combining the basic forms of the positive rhombohedron (a prism with six faces, each a rhombus), negative rhombohedron, steeply, moderately and slightly inclined rhombohedrons, various scalahedrons, prism and pinacoid. De Yoreo and Dove first determined that when combined with magnesium, the corners formed by the intersection of atomic steps flatten and roughen, leading to flattening of the crystals corners and elongation and roughening of the crystal shape.
Anne M. Stark | EurekAlert!
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