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In Situ Transmission Electron Microscopy Explores a New Nanoscale Pathway for Direct Gypsum Formation in Aqueous Solution

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posted on 2018-09-27, 00:00 authored by Kun He, Anmin Nie, Yifei Yuan, Seyed Mohammadreza Ghodsi, Boao Song, Emre Firlar, Jun Lu, Yu-peng Lu, Tolou Shokuhfar, Constantine M. Megaridis, Reza Shahbazian-Yassar
In the modern construction industry, large gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O) boards are manufactured through a two-step procedure, which features the heating of fine gypsum powders to form the intermediate plaster of Paris (bassanite, CaSO4·0.5H2O) followed by hydration of the intermediate phase to form the final formed product. Here, we explore a novel pathway toward the fabrication of gypsum microneedles that bypasses formation of the intermediate bassanite phase. Using in situ liquid transmission electron microscopy, the dynamic behavior of fine gypsum powders in a calcium sulfate solution is investigated at the nanoscale and in real time. An oriented-attachment mechanism is found to dominate the direct transformation of gypsum nanoparticles to gypsum microneedles, where no intermediate phases are involved. Our experimental results advance the fundamental understanding of the dynamic interactions between gypsum and water. The proposed nanoscale pathway for gypsum evolution could potentially revolutionize the construction industry rooted in gypsum board manufacturing by promising a time- and energy-efficient mass production procedure. In addition, this work can inspire research efforts associated with geology, archeology, and biology, where historical significance is frequently deduced from gypsum-related discoveries.