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Control of crystal nucleation: Insights from molecular simulation

By Jamshed Anwar


NoThere is considerable interest, both fundamental and technological, in understanding how additives and impurities influence nucleation, and in being able to modulate nucleation in a predictable way using designer auxiliary molecules. Notable applications involving auxiliaries include the control of nucleation in proteins, inhibition of urinary stone formation, inhibition of ice formation in living tissues during cryoprotection, prevention of blockages in oil and gas pipelines due to wax precipitation, and gas hydrate formation. Despite the immense interest, our understanding of how these molecules exert their effect is still rudimentary, partially because the molecular level processes involved are inaccessible to experiment.\ud \ud We have investigated mechanisms of action of nucleation additives and have derived explicit rules for designing additive molecules for modulating crystal nucleation. The mechanisms of action and the design features have been derived using molecular simulation of simple model systems. Our studies reveal that an effective nucleation inhibitor should have a strong interaction with the solute and have a structure that is able to disrupt the periodicity characterizing the emerging nucleus. Disruption can be achieved by steric effects resulting from structural differences between the additive and solute molecules, the additive possessing extensive degrees of freedom, or via a strong energetic interaction with the solute. Additive molecules that have an amphiphilic character and end up at the solute/solvent interface can inhibit, retard or promote nucleation depending on their specific structure and interactions with the solute and solvent and the given supersaturation, and these specific features and the link with the supersaturation will be discussed. These findings will help to rationalize the mechanisms of action of known nucleation inhibitors and modulators. They will also serve as a framework for rationally identifying or designing additive molecules for either inhibiting or promoting nucleation in specific systems

Topics: Crystallisation, Crystal Growth Inhibitors, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Crystal Nucleation
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.ejps.2008.02.024
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Bradford Scholars
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