Polyaspartic acid facilitates oxolation within iron(iii) oxide pre-nucleation clusters and drives the formation of organic-inorganic composites
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© 2016 Author(s).The interplay between polymers and inorganic minerals during the formation of solids is crucial for biomineralization and bio-inspired materials, and advanced material properties can be achieved with organic-inorganic composites. By studying the reaction mechanisms, basic questions on organic-inorganic interactions and their role during material formation can be answered, enabling more target-oriented strategies in future synthetic approaches. Here, we present a comprehensive study on the hydrolysis of iron(iii) in the presence of polyaspartic acid. For the basic investigation of the formation mechanism, a titration assay was used, complemented by microscopic techniques. The polymer is shown to promote precipitation in partly hydrolyzed reaction solutions at the very early stages of the reaction by facilitating iron(iii) hydrolysis. In unhydrolyzed solutions, no significant interactions between the polymer and the inorganic solutes can be observed. We demonstrate that the hydrolysis promotion by the polymer can be understood by facilitating oxolation in olation iron(iii) pre-nucleation clusters. We propose that the adsorption of olation pre-nucleation clusters on the polymer chains and the resulting loss in dynamics and increased proximity of the reactants is the key to this effect. The resulting composite material obtained from the hydrolysis in the presence of the polymer was investigated with additional analytical techniques, namely, scanning and transmission electron microscopies, light microscopy, atomic force microscopy, zeta potential measurements, dynamic light scattering, and thermogravimetric analyses. It consists of elastic, polydisperse nanospheres, ca. 50-200 nm in diameter, and aggregates thereof, exhibiting a high polymer and water content.
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