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    Visualizing hydrated interfaces is of widespread interest across the physical sciences and is a particularly acute need for layered minerals, whose properties are governed by the structure of the electric double layer (EDL) where mineral and solution meet. Here, we show that cryo electron microscopy and tomography enable direct imaging of the EDL at montmorillonite interfaces in monovalent electrolytes with ångstrom resolution over micron length scales. A learning-based multiple-scattering reconstruction method for cryo electron tomography reveals ions bound asymmetrically on opposite sides of curved, exfoliated layers. We observe conserved ion-density asymmetry across stacks of interacting layers in cryo electron microscopy that is associated with configurations of inner- and outer-sphere ion-water-mineral complexes that we term complexation waves. Coherent X-ray scattering confirms that complexation waves propagate at room-temperature via a competition between ion dehydration and charge interactions that are coupled across opposing sides of a layer, driving dynamic transitions between stacked and aggregated states via layer exfoliation. © 2022. The Author(s).


    Michael L Whittaker, David Ren, Colin Ophus, Yugang Zhang, Laura Waller, Benjamin Gilbert, Jillian F Banfield. Ion complexation waves emerge at the curved interfaces of layered minerals. Nature communications. 2022 Jun 13;13(1):3382

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    PMID: 35697675

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