Advances in the synthesis and structure of α-canaphite: a multitool and multiscale study†
α-Canaphite (CaNa2P2O7·4H2O) is a layered calcium disodium pyrophosphate tetrahydrate phase of significant geological and potential biological interest. This study overcomes the lack of a reliable protocol to synthesize pure α-canaphite by using a novel simple and reproducible approach of double decomposition in solution at room temperature. The pure α-canaphite is then characterized from the atomic to the macroscopic level using a multitool and multiscale advanced characterization strategy, providing for the first time full resolution of the α-canaphite monoclinic structure, including the hydrogen bonding network. Synchrotron X-ray diffraction and neutron diffraction are combined with multinuclear solid state NMR experimental data and computational modeling via DFT/GIPAW calculations. Among the main characteristics of the α-canaphite structure are some strong hydrogen bonds and one of the four water molecules showing a different coordination scheme. This peculiar water molecule could be the last to leave the collapsed structure on heating, leading eventually to anhydrous α-CaNa2P2O7 and could also be involved in the internal hydrolysis of pyrophosphate ions as it is the closest water molecule to the pyrophosphate ions. Relating such detailed structural data on α-canaphite to its physico-chemical properties is of major interest considering the possible roles of canaphite for biomedical applications. The vibrational spectra of α-canaphite (deuterated or not) are analyzed and Raman spectroscopy appears to be a promising tool for the identification/diagnosis of such microcrystals in vitro, in vivo or ex vivo.