Institute of Crystallography - CNR

Formation of calcium phosphate nanoparticles in the presence of carboxylate molecules: a time-resolved in situ synchrotron SAXS and WAXS study

In this work we have studied in situ the formation and growth of calcium phosphate (CaP) nanoparticles (NPs) in the presence of three calcium-binding carboxylate molecules having different affinities for Ca2+ ions: citrate (Cit), hydroxycitrate (CitOH), and glutarate (Glr). The formation of CaP NPs at several reaction temperatures ranging from 25 degrees C to 80 degrees C was monitored in situ through simultaneous Small and Wide X-ray Scattering (SAXS/WAXS) using synchrotron light. SAXS was used to investigate the first stages of NP formation where a crystalline order is not yet formed. In this regard we have developed a new bivariate mesh data analysis method for identifying the SAXS curves associated with the most relevant timeframes for performing curve modeling. WAXS was used to study the formation of crystalline phases and their evolution over time. The combined SAXS/WAXS data allowed us to track NP nucleation, their size and morphology, and their evolution up to mature hydroxyapatite (HA) nanocrystals. We have assessed that in the first stages of reaction (80 seconds) amorphous, elongated primary NPs nucleate whose size and morphology depend on the temperature and type of carboxylate molecule. The temperature controls the release of Ca2+ ions from carboxylate molecules, and thus induces the formation of a higher amount of amorphous particles and increases their size and aspect ratio. As the reaction time progresses, amorphous particles evolve into crystalline ones, whose kinetics of crystal growth are controlled by temperature and carboxylate ions. Stronger Ca-binding carboxylates (CitOH > Cit > Glr) have a more pronounced inhibiting effect on HA crystallization, retarding the formation and growth of crystalline domains, while a rise of temperature promotes crystallization. This work allowed us to shed more light on the formation of HA in the presence of growth-controlling molecules, as well as present the potential of combined SAXS/WAXS for studying the formation of highly relevant NPs for different applications.

CrystEngComm (Camb., Online)
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Siliqi, Dritan and Adamiano, Alessio and Ladisa, Massimo and Giannini, Cinzia and Iafisco, Michele and Degli Esposti, Lorenzo