Understanding how green additives control crystallization

Additives ⎯ small amounts of (organic) molecules ⎯ are widely used to control crystallization processes.

Examples include the creation of cement pastes with improved workability (approx. $20 billion/year are spent on cement additives), property control during synthesis of inorganic materials for catalysis or energy storage, and the prevention of scale formation during cleaning processes (e.g. laundry or dishwashing) and water treatment technologies. Increasing environmental awareness and new regulations, such as the ban of phosphonate-based formulations, are pushing the industry to develop more sustainable, i.e. biodegradable and/or biobased, additives.

As many of the existing compounds were identified through empirical trial-and-error approaches, the rational development of efficient green crystallization modifiers requires fundamental understanding of  their modus operandi at the nanoscale. With this PhD project, we aim to correlate the physicochemical properties of additive molecules with their functionality during the crystallization  process and to pinpoint when and how these molecules are incorporated into the emerging crystalline framework. To achieve this, we will employ in-situ time-resolved Pair Distribution Function (PDF) analyses combined with potentiometric titration measurements, Small-Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) studies, as well as complementary in situ confocal (fluorescence) microscopy experiments to monitor the mineralization process in the presence of different types of (green) additives.

The obtained insights will provide the industry partner (BASF SE) with new fundamental concepts for the rational design of high-performance green additives relevant to different applications of construction, antiscaling and functional materials.



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Annet Baken is working on understanding how green additives control crystallization at the nanoscale project. This project sees collaboration between the ESRF, BASF SE and Université Grenoble Alpes