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Numerical Study of Mineral Nucleation and Growth on a Substrate...

by Fengchang Yang, Ke Yuan, Andrew G Stack, Vitalii Starchenko
Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1655 to 1665

Nucleation and growth processes of minerals and other crystals can significantly affect one another due to the transport limitations and local depletion of reactive ions in the solution. Most numerical models and experimental measurements have typically focused on either growth or nucleation, but not both. In this work, we incorporate a heterogeneous nucleation process based on classical nucleation theory into a microcontinuum model that implements the Darcy–Brinkman–Stokes approach to study the interplay between nucleation and crystal growth on a substrate in diffusive systems. We demonstrate how the Damköhler number (reaction rate) and nucleation rate prefactor change the effective nucleation rate on a substrate. Higher surface growth rates deplete the solute concentration around the nuclei that appear initially on the substrate, creating islands that screen against further nucleation. The model predicts that measured nucleation rates may be affected by the history of crystal nucleation on the substrate. In the extreme case of high growth rates relative to diffusion, it predicts that the rate of subsequent nucleation is limited by reactant depletion. We introduce a nondimensional number α to represent the relation between surface propagation rate during growth and the heterogeneous nucleation rate. We show that it is important to control Damköhler number and α to achieve similar precipitation regimes at different reaction and nucleation rates. We suggest that the observed universality can guide the interpretation of experimental results on nucleation rates, since matching experiment can be achieved by tuning transport, reaction, and nucleation parameters simultaneously. In addition, we show how the bulk solution concentration affects the structure and topology of precipitation on a substrate.