Growth of organic crystals via attachment and transformation of nanoscopic precursors

Nat Commun. 2017 Jun 21;8:15933. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15933.


A key requirement for the understanding of crystal growth is to detect how new layers form and grow at the nanoscale. Multistage crystallization pathways involving liquid-like, amorphous or metastable crystalline precursors have been predicted by theoretical work and have been observed experimentally. Nevertheless, there is no clear evidence that any of these precursors can also be relevant for the growth of crystals of organic compounds. Herein, we present a new growth mode for crystals of DL-glutamic acid monohydrate that proceeds through the attachment of preformed nanoscopic species from solution, their subsequent decrease in height at the surface and final transformation into crystalline 2D nuclei that eventually build new molecular layers by further monomer incorporation. This alternative mechanism provides a direct proof for the existence of multistage pathways in the crystallization of molecular compounds and the relevance of precursor units larger than the monomeric constituents in the actual stage of growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't