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The role of boron in the crystallization and surface properties of CaCO3 at the nanoscale (NANOCARB)
Start date: Jan 1, 2015, End date: Apr 11, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Boron is important in industry and nature. It is used in oil extraction, detergents, superconductors and agricultural chemicals. At neutral to slightly basic pH, where CaCO3 forms, B exists as boric acid and borate. These are present in all sea water so marine organisms automatically incorporate B into their shells. Strangely, nearly nothing is known about the extent of uptake or its effects. In many areas of the Mediterranean Sea and continental Europe, B is a contaminant, risking environmental damage and challenging drinking water supplies. Because so little is known about its behaviour, toxic concentrations are difficult to remove. The goal of NanoCArB is to add to the thermodynamic and kinetic databases for the B-H2O-CO2-CaCO3 system, to provide deeper understanding about the interaction of B with calcium carbonate mineral surfaces and to provide a solid base for interpreting boron isotope fractionation. NanoCArB will use a multidisciplinary approach by combining several state of the art nanotechniques including spectroscopy, microscopy and synchrotron radiation based methods for in situ, real time studies to answer three main questions: How does borate affect the growth rate and growth mechanisms of calcite? What is the effect of borate on CaCO3 surface properties (i.e. adsorbed species, surface tension, inhibition) of calcite? How do the various mechanisms of crystallisation affect surface attachment, incorporation and isotope fractionation in calcite and aragonite. The results will contribute significantly in a number of fields, such as improving drinking water and waste treatment, scale inhibition, oil extraction, and to advance understanding of processes that occur at the global scale, such as ocean acidification and climate change. In parallel, NanoCArB will provide me with the opportunity to direct a research project, enhancing my research management skills, moving me along the path to independence as a scientist.
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