Nanoscale effects of strontium on calcite growth: An in situ AFM study in the absence of vital effects

Laura E. Wasylenki, Patricia M. Dove, Darren S. Wilson, James J. De Yoreo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


This experimental study presents in situ measurements of step migration rates for layer growth of calcite at various levels of superaturation and fluid Sr concentrations. Our results show that Sr has complex behavior as an impurity. At low concentrations, Sr promotes faster growth. This effect may be associated with slight shifts in calcite solubility when Sr is incorporated or may be due to as yet uncharacterized kinetic effects. At higher concentrations, Sr stops step advancement by pinning kink-sites or step edges. The threshold concentration of Sr needed to halt growth is positively correlated with supersaturation. Addition of Sr to the calcite growth system leads to significant changes in hillock morphology. Hillocks become elongate perpendicular to the projection of the c-glide plane, in contrast to the changes previously reported for Mg. Step edges also become scalloped, and the boundary between the obtuse-stepped flanks disappears and is replaced by a new step direction with edges parallel to [010]. Incorporation of Sr was measured at two supersaturation levels and identical fluid [Sr]. The results indicate a strong positive correlation between fluid supersaturation and crystal Sr content. Further, Sr is strongly fractionated between obtuse- and acute-stepped flanks by a factor of approximately two. The sensitivity of Sr uptake to supersaturation may explain apparently contradictory results in the literature regarding whether Sr uptake in the calcite produced by one-celled marine organisms is controlled by temperature. In addition, Sr contents of natural calcite samples may be good indicators of the levels of supersaturation at which the crystals grew. Results of this investigation demonstrate the importance of understanding impurity-specific interactions with calcite growth surfaces at the microscopic scale. Despite similar chemical behavior in some systems, Mg and Sr clearly have very different effects on calcite growth. If Sr and other impurities are to be used as robust indicators of growth conditions in natural calcite samples, well grounded understanding of the mechanisms of recording trace element signatures in calcite is an essential step toward correctly deciphering paleoenvironmental signals from fossil calcite compositions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3017-3027
Number of pages11
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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