Molecular insight into the nanoconfined calcite-solution interface

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Little is known about the influence of nanoconfinement on calcium carbonate mineralization. Here, colloidal probe atomic force microscopy is used to confine the calcite-solution interface with a silica microsphere and to measure Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek (DLVO) and non-DLVO forces as a function of the calcium concentration, also after charge reversal of both surfaces occurs. Through the statistical analysis of the oscillatory component of a strong hydration force, the subnanometer interfacial structure of the confined atomically flat calcite is resolved in aqueous solution. By applying a mechanical work, both water and hydrated counterions are squeezed out from the nanoconfined solution, leaving the calcite surface more negatively charged than the analogous unconfined surfaces. Layer size and applied work allow a distinction between the hydration states of the counterions in the Stern layer; we propose counterions to be inner- and outer-sphere calcium ions, with a population of inner-sphere calcium ions larger than on unconfined calcite surfaces. It is also shown that the composition of the nanoconfined solution can be tuned by varying calcium concentration. This is a fundamental study of DLVO and hydration forces, and of their connection, on atomically flat calcite. More broadly, our work scrutinizes the greatly unexplored relation between surface science and confined mineralization, with implications for diverse areas of inquiry, such as nanoconfined biomineralization, CO2 sequestration in porous aquifers, and pressure solution and crystallization in confined hydrosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12047-12052
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 25 2016


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Calcite
  • Dlvo theory
  • Hydration forces
  • Nanoconfinement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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