Solvent-mediated isotope effects strongly influence the early stages of calcium carbonate formation: exploring D2O vs. H2O in a combined computational and experimental approach†
In experimental studies, heavy water (D2O) is employed, e.g., so as to shift the spectroscopic solvent background, but any potential effects of this solvent exchange on reaction pathways are often neglected. While the important role of light water (H2O) during the early stages of calcium carbonate formation has been realized, studies into the actual effects of aqueous solvent exchanges are scarce. Here, we present a combined computational and experimental approach to start to fill this gap. We extended a suitable force field for molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Experimentally, we utilised advanced titration assays and time-resolved attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy. We find distinct effects in various mixtures of the two aqueous solvents, and in pure H2O or D2O. Disagreements between the computational results and experimental data regarding the stabilities of ion associates might be due to the unexplored role of HDO, or an unprobed complex phase behaviour of the solvent mixtures in the simulations. Altogether, however, our data suggest that calcium carbonate formation might proceed “more classically” in D2O. Also, there are indications for the formation of new structures in amorphous and crystalline calcium carbonates. There is huge potential towards further improving the understanding of mineralization mechanisms by studying solvent-mediated isotope effects, also beyond calcium carbonate. Last, it must be appreciated that H2O and D2O have significant, distinct effects on mineralization mechanisms, and that care has to be taken when experimental data from D2O studies are used, e.g., for the development of H2O-based computer models.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Understanding Crystallisation