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Coexistence of Transient Liquid Droplets and Amorphous Solid Particles in Nonclassical Crystallization of Cerium Oxalate

Abstract : Crystallization from solution often occurs via “nonclassical” routes; that is, it involves transient, non-crystalline states like reactant-rich liquid droplets and amorphous particles. However, in mineral crystals, the well-defined thermodynamic character of liquid droplets and whether they convert─or not─into amorphous phases have remained unassessed. Here, by combining cryo-transmission electron microscopy and X-ray scattering down to a 250 ms reaction time, we unveil that crystallization of cerium oxalate involves a metastable chemical equilibrium between transient liquid droplets and solid amorphous particles: contrary to the usual expectation, reactant-rich droplets do not evolve into amorphous solids. Instead, at concentrations above 2.5 to 10 mmol L–1, both amorphous and reactant-rich liquid phases coexist for several tens of seconds and their molar fractions remain constant and follow the lever rule in a multicomponent phase diagram. Such a metastable chemical equilibrium between solid and liquid precursors has been so far overlooked in multistep nucleation theories and highlights the interest of rationalizing phase transformations using multicomponent phase diagrams not only when designing and recycling rare earths materials but also more generally when describing nonclassical crystallization.
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Submitted on : Monday, September 12, 2022 - 8:29:55 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 27, 2022 - 4:28:27 AM

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Maxime Durelle, Sophie Charton, Frédéric Gobeaux, Corinne Chevallard, Luc Belloni, et al.. Coexistence of Transient Liquid Droplets and Amorphous Solid Particles in Nonclassical Crystallization of Cerium Oxalate. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, American Chemical Society, 2022, 13, pp.8502-8508. ⟨10.1021/acs.jpclett.2c01829⟩. ⟨cea-03774753⟩

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