Nucleation and growth of magnetite from solution

Nat Mater. 2013 Apr;12(4):310-4. doi: 10.1038/nmat3558. Epub 2013 Feb 3.


The formation of crystalline materials from solution is usually described by the nucleation and growth theory, where atoms or molecules are assumed to assemble directly from solution. For numerous systems, the formation of the thermodynamically stable crystalline phase is additionally preceded by metastable intermediates . More complex pathways have recently been proposed, such as aggregational processes of nanoparticle precursors or pre-nucleation clusters, which seem to contradict the classical theory. Here we show by cryogenic transmission electron microscopy that the nucleation and growth of magnetite-a magnetic iron oxide with numerous bio- and nanotechnological applications-proceed through rapid agglomeration of nanometric primary particles and that in contrast to the nucleation of other minerals, no intermediate amorphous bulk precursor phase is involved. We also demonstrate that these observations can be described within the framework of classical nucleation theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide / chemistry*
  • Liquid Crystals / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Solutions
  • Thermodynamics


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Solutions
  • ferric oxide
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide