Aggregation-Based Crystal Growth and Microstructure Development in Natural Iron Oxyhydroxide Biomineralization ProductsJillian F. Banfield, Susan A. Welch, Hengzhong Zhang, Tamara Thomsen Ebert, R. Lee Penn
Crystals are generally considered to grow by attachment of ions to inorganic surfaces or organic templates. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy of biomineralization products of iron-oxidizing bacteria revealed an alternative coarsening mechanism in which adjacent 2- to 3-nanometer particles aggregate and rotate so their structures adopt parallel orientations in three dimensions. Crystal growth is accomplished by eliminating water molecules at interfaces and forming iron-oxygen bonds. Self-assembly occurs at multiple sites, leading to a coarser, polycrystalline material. Point defects (from surface-adsorbed impurities), dislocations, and slabs of structurally distinct material are created as a consequence of this growth mechanism and can dramatically impact subsequent reactivity.