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Chemical Structure and Complex Growth Modes of Magnesium Silicate Hydrate: Nanoparticle Orientation, Aggregation, and Fusion


Singh, Dylan; Nguyen, Trinh; Bustamantes, Evann; Wahab, Abdul; Yousaf, Ahmad; Shortt, Ian; Foss, F. W. ; Konsta-Gdoutos, Maria; Lee, Sang Soo; La Plante, Erika


The extent of utilization of magnesium silicate hydrate (MSH) in construction is limited partly because of insufficient data ascertaining the kinetics of its precipitation. Here, MSH grown homogeneously or heterogeneously in the range of magnesium to silicon solution molar concentration ratios, [M/[Si] = 0.51.5, and temperature = 2580 C was analyzed for its chemical structure and morphology. Infrared spectroscopy and geochemical modeling show that increasing the [M/[Si] ratio results in less silicate polymerization in MSH. Atomic force microscopy reveals the presence of nanoparticles that aggregate and fuse to form films. Oriented attachment of nanoparticles and features indicative of enhanced crystallinity were observed at higher temperatures and longer reaction times. These data provide direct evidence for the persistence of hierarchical structures (i.e., nanoparticles forming 3D microparticles and 2D film layers) at the nanoscale to mesoscale. These findings offer insights into the precise chemical synthesis of MSH and its widespread use as a binder for construction purposes.