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Real-Time Observation of Water-Soluble Mineral Precipitation in Aqueous Solution by In Situ High-Resolution Electron Microscopy

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journal contribution
posted on 26.01.2016, 00:00 by Jong Min Yuk, Qin Zhou, Jiyoung Chang, Peter Ercius, A. Paul Alivisatos, Alex Zettl
The precipitation and dissolution of water-soluble minerals in aqueous systems is a familiar process occurring commonly in nature. Understanding mineral nucleation and growth during its precipitation is highly desirable, but past in situ techniques have suffered from limited spatial and temporal resolution. Here, by using in situ graphene liquid cell electron microscopy, mineral nucleation and growth processes are demonstrated in high spatial and temporal resolution. We precipitate the mineral thenardite (Na2SO4) from aqueous solution with electron-beam-induced radiolysis of water. We demonstrate that minerals nucleate with a two-dimensional island structure on the graphene surfaces. We further reveal that mineral grains grow by grain boundary migration and grain rotation. Our findings provide a direct observation of the dynamics of crystal growth from ionic solutions.