Michigan EARTH Professor Udo Becker, along with a team of colleagues, recently had a paper published in Science that discussed their potential solution to the “dolomite problem,” which is essentially the difficulty in growing the mineral in a lab. Becker and the team of researchers may have found a solution. You can read the abstract and full paper below.


Crystals grow in supersaturated solutions. A mysterious counterexample is dolomite CaMg(CO3)2, a geologically abundant sedimentary mineral that does not readily grow at ambient conditions, not even under highly supersaturated solutions. Using atomistic simulations, we show that dolomite initially precipitates a cation-disordered surface, where high surface strains inhibit further crystal growth. However, mild undersaturation will preferentially dissolve these disordered regions, enabling increased order upon reprecipitation. Our simulations predict that frequent cycling of a solution between supersaturation and undersaturation can accelerate dolomite growth by up to seven orders of magnitude. We validated our theory with in situ liquid cell transmission electron microscopy, directly observing bulk dolomite growth after pulses of dissolution. This mechanism explains why modern dolomite is primarily found in natural environments with pH or salinity fluctuations. More generally, it reveals that the growth and ripening of defect-free crystals can be facilitated by deliberate periods of mild dissolution.

Click the button below to read the full paper in Science.