From chemical gardens to chemobrionics
de Wit A.
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Chemical gardens in laboratory chemistries ranging from silicates to polyoxometalates, in applications ranging from corrosion products to the hydration of Portland cement, and in natural settings ranging from hydrothermal vents in the ocean depths to brinicles beneath sea ice. In many chemical-garden experiments, the structure forms as a solid seed of a soluble ionic compound dissolves in a solution containing another reactive ion. In general any alkali silicate solution can be used due to their high solubility at high pH. The cation should not precipitate with the counterion of the metal salt used as seed. A main property of seed chemical-garden experiments is that initially, when the fluid is not moving under buoyancy or osmosis, the delivery of the inner reactant is diffusion controlled. Another experimental technique that isolates one aspect of chemical-garden formation is to produce precipitation membranes between different aqueous solutions by introducing the two solutions on either side of an inert carrier matrix. Chemical gardens may be grown upon injection of solutions into a so-called Hele-Shaw cell, a quasi-two-dimensional reactor consisting in two parallel plates separated by a small gap.