Surface reactivity of soft minerals at the atomic scale

Abstract : Identifying reaction mechanisms of minerals is fundamental to understand diagenesis, i.e, sedimentary rock formation, construction material, like cement or gypsum, hardening, and biomineralization. The macroscopic reaction rates of minerals are generally deduced from solution chemistry measurements. Beside the measurement of macroscopic reaction rates, the study of the reactivity of minerals includes now the investigation of the atomic mechanisms involved in the reactions. This has been made possible for two decades by the use of tools resolving nanometric objects, such as vertical scanning interferometry (VSI) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Gypsum and calcite are among soft minerals. They are extremely widespread mineral that can be found naturally in sedimentary rocks. They are also used in many industrial fields. Gypsum (CaSO4,2H2O) is an evaporate mineral. Gypsum uses include: manufacture of wallboards, plaster of Paris, soil conditioning, and hardening retarder in Portland cement. Varieties of gypsum known as "satin spar" and "alabaster" are used for a variety of ornamental purposes; however, their low hardness limits their durability. Calcite, the most stable crystalline form of CaCO3, is moreover important as a bio-mineral and a major constituent of host rock in carbonate reservoirs, which host drinking water and natural oil and gas. When biological organisms grow their shells, they control the crystal morphology, size, orientation and even the crystal phase of precipitated calcium carbonate. This results in materials with physical and chemical properties that differ significantly from those of inorganically precipitated calcite. Gaining more insight into the surface reactivity of calcite and the effect of surface impurities will bring us one step closer to being able to synthesize biomimetic material, which mimic the properties of biogenic calcite. In this thesis, I had three main focus points. In the first part I studied the effect of stress on the dissolution mechanisms. I investigated to deduce the dissolution rate from the atomic kinetics. The second and the most extensive was the study of the influence of stress on the calcite growth and probing the role of an organic additive on the dynamics of calcite growth while applying stress. In the third part I emphasised on quantitative topographic measurements of dissolving calcite crystal over a relatively large and fixed view at vast range of pH. I considered the influence of an organic additive on the dissolution and surface reaction kinetics at this larger scale. Both macroscopic and microscopic dissolution rates can also be deduced from the dynamics of molecular events (etch pit growth, atomic step migration), but they hardly ever agree, even qualitatively, and the elaboration of a general theory linking the kinetics at the two scales is still in progress. I presented here microscopic dissolution rates of gypsum, measured by atomic force microscopy (AFM), in quantitative agreement with macroscopic rates. This agreement has been obtained in taking care to neutralize the bias induced by the force applied by the AFM tip on the surface, and to identify clearly the driving molecular mechanism. The force applied by the AFM tip on the surface has been seen to increase the solubility of the mineral, thereby introducing a bias, so I have always worked with a constant and low applied force. This result shows that the determination, among the topographic changes during the dissolution of a mineral, of the dominant one, and the measurement of its dynamics, may permit deducing from AFM experiments a reliable macroscopic dissolution rate. The transformation of loose grains into a cohesive solid requires the crystallites to grow eventually constrained by the surrounding grains. Whereas never measured, this confinement and the associated stress is expected to influence noticeably the growth, and the final properties of the material… [etc]
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Bahareh Zareeipolgardani. Surface reactivity of soft minerals at the atomic scale. Material chemistry. Université de Lyon, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019LYSE1018⟩. ⟨tel-02269601⟩

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