Opel, J.; Kellermeier, M.; Sickinger, A.; Morales, J.; Coelfen, H.; Garcia-Ruiz, J.-M., Structural Transition of Inorganic Silica-Carbonate Composites Towards Curved Lifelike Morphologies. Minerals 2018, 8 (2).
The self-assembly of alkaline earth carbonates in the presence of silica at high pH leads to a unique class of composite materials displaying a broad variety of self-assembled superstructures with complex morphologies. A detailed understanding of the formation process of these purely inorganic architectures is crucial for their implications in the context of primitive life detection as well as for their use in the synthesis of advanced biomimetic materials. Recently, great efforts have been made to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms driving self-assembly in these systems, resulting in a consistent model for morphogenesis at ambient conditions. In the present work, we build on this knowledge and investigate the influence of temperature, supersaturation, and an added multivalent cation as parameters by which the shape of the forming superstructures can be controlled. In particular, we focus on trumpet- and coral-like structures which quantitatively replace the well-characterised sheets and worm-like braids at elevated temperature and in the presence of additional ions, respectively. The observed morphological changes are discussed in light of the recently proposed formation mechanism with the aim to ultimately understand and control the major physicochemical factors governing the self-assembly process.