Title of Research Group: Environmental Nanomineralogy group

Principal Investigator: Dr. Juan Diego Rodriguez-Blanco
Institution: Trinity College Dublin
School: School of Natural Sciences, Department of Geology
Also: iCRAG funded investigator.
The main focus of my work is to study the mechanisms of crystallisation of minerals like carbonates, phosphates and sulphates at the nanoscale to understand biogeochemical element cycling and mineral-water interaction processes.
Crystallisation is key to many natural and industrial processes –from biomineralisation to synthesis of alloys and pharmaceutical compounds– and also controls processes taking place at the global scale (e.g., the global carbon cycle, fate of pollutants in seawater, climate). Many of these processes involve the formation poorly-ordered (i.e., amorphous) precursor phases prior to crystallisation and also the crystallisation of short-lived metastable phases. However, the mechanisms of formation many minerals are not well known because their crystallisation rates are extremely fast (<1 – 10s of seconds) and it is very difficult to follow these processes with conventional laboratory techniques. We follow crystallisation processes by carrying out in situ and real-time experiments at synchrotron facilities (e.g., Diamond Light Source, Advanced Photon Source). Techniques used are small and wide angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS), pair distribution function (PDF) and synchrotron-based powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), combined with conventional high-resolution microscopy, solid-state, wet-chemical and spectroscopic techniques.
The main goal with these lines of research is to find our how to manage resources in a way that we can preserve the quality of life that we have now into the future generations.

Techniques: SAXS, WAXS, PDF, XRD

Facilities: Diamond Light Source (United Kingdom), Advanced Photon Source (Argonne National Laboratories, USA)

Beamlines: I22 (Diamond Light Source), http://www.wayforlight.eu/en/beamline?contentId=1999; I11 (Diamond Light Source), http://www.wayforlight.eu/en/beamline?contentId=1990; 11-ID-B (Advanced Photon Source), https://www.aps.anl.gov/Beamlines/Directory/Details?beamline_id=16; Sandals, at ISIS neutron source (UK), https://www.isis.stfc.ac.uk/Pages/Sandals.aspx

Group (as of 2018): 1 PhD (Group “in construction”.)

Participating group members at SR/FEL/neutron facilities (period 2008-2017):
I have recently joined Trinity College Dublin so my group is currenty “in construction”.
(Historical information, but not all Irish facility users visit facilities every year)

Access to synchrotron facilities allows me to obtain in situ and real-time experimental data that would be very difficult to obtain by only using conventional laboratory techniques. My work is multidisciplinary and combines oriented basic research and applied research in line with the Ireland’s strategy in STEM underpinning the priority area “Processing Technologies & Novel Materials” positioned within the broad enterprise theme of ENERGY. It is also aligned with the research theme of Climate Action because it follows a cross-disciplinary approach to accelerate action for making a transition to a low carbon economy. Overall it will develop Ireland’s international reputation as it will allow preparing excellent professionals with a multidisciplinary, research-specific and complementary training program.

Quote: Access to synchrotron radiation sources have enabled me to study crystallisation processes that occur at very short time frames and also to understand the mechanisms resulting in the formation of crystals at the nanoscale as well as the kinetics of crystallisation of specific compounds. This knowledge would have been impossible to obtain by using conventional laboratory techniques.

Publication Highlights:

  • Rodriguez-Blanco, J.D., Sand, K.K. and Benning, L.G. (2017) ACC and vaterite as metastable intermediates in the solution based crystallization of CaCO3. Chapter 5 of New Perspectives on Mineral Nucleation and Growth. Eds: Alexander van Driessche, Matthias Kellermeier, Liane G. Benning, Dennis Gebauer. Springer International Publishing. Switzerland. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-45669-0; eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-45669-0; Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-45667-6
  • Tobler, D.J., Rodriguez-Blanco, J.D., Dideriksen, K., Bovet, N., Sand, K.K., Stipp. S.L.S. (2015) Citrate Effects on Amorphous Calcium Carbonate (ACC) Structure, Stability, and Crystallization. Advanced Functional Materials, 25, 3081-3090. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201500400
  • Rodriguez-Blanco, J.D., Shaw, S. and Benning, L.G. (2011) The kinetics and mechanisms of Amorphous Calcium Carbonate (ACC) crystallization to calcite, via vaterite. Nanoscale, 3, 265-271. doi: 10.1039/c0nr00589d
  • Website: http://jrodriguezblanco.wordpress.com/

    ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5978-3001