Self-organization in precipitation reactions far from the equilibrium

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Science Advances  19 Aug 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 8, e1601144
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601144


Far from the thermodynamic equilibrium, many precipitation reactions create complex product structures with fascinating features caused by their unusual origins. Unlike the dissipative patterns in other self-organizing reactions, these features can be permanent, suggesting potential applications in materials science and engineering. We review four distinct classes of precipitation reactions, describe similarities and differences, and discuss related challenges for theoretical studies. These classes are hollow micro- and macrotubes in chemical gardens, polycrystalline silica carbonate aggregates (biomorphs), Liesegang bands, and propagating precipitation-dissolution fronts. In many cases, these systems show intricate structural hierarchies that span from the nanometer scale into the macroscopic world. We summarize recent experimental progress that often involves growth under tightly regulated conditions by means of wet stamping, holographic heating, and controlled electric, magnetic, or pH perturbations. In this research field, progress requires mechanistic insights that cannot be derived from experiments alone. We discuss how mesoscopic aspects of the product structures can be modeled by reaction-transport equations and suggest important targets for future studies that should also include materials features at the nanoscale.

  • Chemical gardens
  • biomorphs
  • Liesegang patterns
  • silicate
  • nanorod
  • nanoparticle
  • colloid
  • ostwald
  • reaction-diffusion
  • biominerals

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