Found in seashells, pearls, marble, and chalk, calcium carbonate is one of the most important molecules on Earth. It is also the most abundant form of carbon on our planet. But while scientists have studied calcium carbonate crystal growth for decades, they haven’t actually been able to explain how the crystals appear from the very start.
Now, a team of researchers have used a high-powered electron microscope at the Molecular Foundry to capture the birth of these crystals, a phenomenon called nucleation. In doing so, they’ve demonstrated that pathways to different types of crystallization are varied and more complex than suspected.