Third party funded individual grant
Formation of Liquid-condensed mineral phases and the mechanisms of the PILP process: potential for a new morphosynthetic route to nanocomposite materials


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Start date: 01/04/2014

Abstract (technical / expert description):
In the recent years, exceptional crystallization processes have been reavealed which cannot be explained within the classical nucleation theories. Meanwhile, the existence of prenucleation clusters and particle-mediated crystallization channels like oriented attachment give clear evidence for nonclassical crystallization pathways. In 1998, Laurie Gower reported the existence of a nonclassical route which bases on the occurrence of a highly hydrated and liquid-amorphous mineral phase in aqueous solutions and which is induced if a small amount of an anionic polymer is added. The so-called polymer-induced liquid-precursor (PILP) process was already shown to hold great potential for the generation of non-equilibrium morphologies of carbonate-based minerals since a liquid-like intermediate can be shaped or molded nearly at will. Interestingly, these materials obtained via the PILP process consist of densely packed mineral nanogranules. Inbetween these granules, the polymeric additive is embedded and seems to form an intracrystalline spongy organic network which penetrates the complete mineral body. Thus, PILP materials have to be counted among the class of nanocomposite materials---a class which is intensively studied since they exhibit material properties superior to those of the pure bulk materials. Although the PILP process provides a new synthetical concept for the generation of nanocomposite materials, it is still constrained to few relatively mundane carbonate-based inorganic compounds. But the translation of the PILP process to new systems is inhibited by our limited mechanistical understanding. The goal of this junior research group is twofold. One the one hand, a deeper mechanistical understanding of the PILP process shall be provided. A set of handy empirical rules shall be derived which allow the transfer to new mineral and polymer systems. On the other hand, the structure-property relationships, which describe the material characteristics of nanogranular composite materials obtained by the PILP process, shall be investigated in order to pave the way for the employment of the PILP process in the design of new nanocomposite materials.
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