Our ability to control crystallization is behind untold trillions of dollars of annual technology, as well as a key to interpreting the past, present, and future evolution of our planet. Yet our scientific understanding of crystallization - the transformation of dissolved species into solids – is drastically incomplete. Recent research is revealing a diversity of new “nonclassical” pathways and mechanisms by which crystals, particularly nanocrystals, form and grow through attachment of precursor particles. However, immense gaps remain in our understanding of these processes.
With this understanding, it could very well unlock new ways to stimulate and innovate current technology and even the understanding of nature, which would have fundamental and applied applications from the behavior of the planet to better control of our environment (e.g., climate).
Key to unlocking this potential is developing new ways to study crystallization in situ. The challenge lies in observing and accurately measuring the atomic structural, chemical, and physical properties of a system as it continuously evolves from initial reactant species to intermediate products (i.e., polymers, clusters, and smallest nanoparticles) to final solids. In the proposed collaborative effort we will revolutionize real-time crystallization research by using additive manufacturing (3D printing) and multilayer soft lithography to fabricate ‘reactionware’ devices that are ideal for use with synchrotron techniques. This pioneering approach to crystallization research - using unique crystallization chamber fabrication techniques with stateof-the-art synchrotron science – has a very high probability of success and promises advances in nanomaterials design and synthesis for diverse applications in nanoscience and beyond.