Dissolution processes at single crystal surfaces often involve the initial formation and expansion of localized, characteristic (faceted) etch-pits at defects, in an otherwise comparatively unreactive surface. Using natural gypsum single crystal as an example, a simple but powerful morphological analysis of these characteristic etch pit features is proposed that allows important questions concerning dissolution kinetics to be addressed. Significantly, quantitative mass transport associated with reactive microscale interfaces in quiescent solution (well known in the field of electrochemistry at ultramicroelectrodes) allows the relative importance of diffusion compared to surface kinetics to be assessed. Furthermore, because such mass transport rates are high, much faster surface kinetics can be determined than with existing dissolution methods. For the case of gypsum, surface processes are found to dominate the kinetics at early stages of the dissolution process (small etch pits) on the cleaved (010) surface. However, the contribution from mass transport becomes more important with time due to the increased area of the reactive zones and associated decrease in mass transport rate. Significantly, spatial heterogeneities in both surface kinetics and mass transport effects are identified, and the morphology of the characteristic etch features reveal direction-dependent dissolution kinetics that can be quantified. Effective dissolution velocities normal to the main basal (010) face are determined, along with velocities for the movement of  and  oriented steps. Inert electrolyte enhances dissolution velocities in all directions (salting in), but a striking new observation is that the effect is direction-dependent. Studies of common ion effects reveal that Ca2+ has a much greater impact in reducing dissolution rates compared to SO42−. With this approach, the new microscopic observations can be further analysed to obtain macroscopic dissolution rates, which are found to be wholly consistent with previous bulk measurements. The studies are thus important in bridging the gap between microscopic phenomena and macroscopic measurements.
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