Low-energy minima structures for (CaCO3)n, n = 28, are predicted using bottom-up genetic algorithms in conjunction with density functional theory electronic structure calculations, in comparison with the frozen and relaxed top-down clusters generated by cuts from the calcite, vaterite, and aragonite crystal structures. Similarities in structural motifs for the bottom-up and relaxed top-down are revealed using a fragment recognition technique. Fragment energy decomposition analysis shows that the bottom-up and relaxed top-down clusters belong to two classes of amorphous clusters with distinct intracluster energy distributions, despite their structural similarity. The bottom-up clusters with >20 formula units are surface stabilized with negative surface energy densities. In contrast, the top-down clusters are interior stabilized with positive surface energy densities. We prove that the sign of the surface energy density determines whether the nucleation reaction energy as a function of nuclear size has a maximum or a minimum. The surface-stabilized bottom-up clusters are proposed to be a type of prenucleation cluster at the minimum of the nucleation reaction energy. A mechanism for mineralization of CaCO3 involving prenucleation clusters and nonclassical growth pathway is proposed on the basis of our theoretical findings, which is consistent with previous titration experiments.
Elucidation of Bottom-up Growth of CaCO3 Involving Prenucleation Clusters from Structure Predictions and Decomposition of
Chen M., A. Mcneill, Y. Hu, and D.A. Dixon. 2020. "Elucidation of Bottom-up Growth of CaCO3 Involving Prenucleation Clusters from Structure Predictions and Decomposition of Globally Optimized (CaCO3)n Nanoclusters." <i>ACS Nano</i> 14, no. 4:4153-4165. PNNL-SA-152710. doi:10.1021/acsnano.9b08907