ABSTRACT

Evidence of crystallization by particle attachment in synthetic materials is described in numerous contributions. However, efforts to establish the contribution of the particle attachment mechanism to inorganic crystallization in natural environments have barely begun. Here, we show, for the first time, evidence that confirms oriented particle attachment as a crystal growth mechanism that is relevant in sedimentary environments. In these natural settings, oriented particle attachment operates during the formation of highly anisotropically structured clay minerals, which constitute one of the most extensively distributed groups of minerals in the Earth's crust. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy images show that the clay minerals aggregation process occurs in different manners. Smectites aggregate by semi-oriented attachment, while kaolinite, sepiolite and palygorskite aggregate by oriented attachment.

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