Small but effective: potent light-weight additives modulate prenucleation clusters by specific interactions on the molecular level

25 October 2021, Version 3
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Small-molecular-weight (MW) additives can strongly impact amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC), playing an elusive role in biogenic, geologic, and industrial calcification. Here, we present molecular mechanisms by which additives regulate stability and composition of both CaCO3 solutions and solid ACC. Potent antiscalants inhibit ACC precipitation by interacting with prenucleation clusters (PNC); they specifically trigger and integrate into PNCs or feed PNC growth. Only PNC-interacting additives are traceable in ACC, considerably stabilizing it against crystallization. The selective incorporation of potent additives in PNCs is a reliable chemical label that provides conclusive chemical evidence that ACC is a molecular precipitate derived PNCs. Our results reveal additive-cluster interactions beyond established mechanistic conceptions. They reassess the role of small-MW molecules in crystallization and biomineralization, while breaking grounds for new sustainable antiscalants.


nonclassical crystallization
calcium carbonate
solid-state NMR

Supplementary materials

Supplemental Information (SI)
Supplemental Information


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