Spatiotemporal control over crystal nucleation and growth is of fundamental interest for understanding how organisms assemble high-performance biominerals, and holds relevance for manufacturing of functional materials. Many methods have been developed towards static or global control, however gaining simultaneously dynamic and local control over crystallization remains challenging. Here, we show spatiotemporal control over crystallization of retrograde (inverse) soluble compounds induced by locally heating water using near-infrared (NIR) laser light. We modulate the NIR light intensity to start, steer, and stop crystallization of calcium carbonate and laser-write with micrometer precision. Tailoring the crystallization conditions overcomes the inherently stochastic crystallization behavior and enables positioning single crystals of vaterite, calcite, and aragonite. We demonstrate straightforward extension of these principles toward other biorelevant compounds by patterning barium-, strontium-, and calcium carbonate, as well as strontium sulfate and calcium phosphate. Since many important compounds exhibit retrograde solubility behavior, NIR-induced heating may enable light-controlled crystallization with precise spatiotemporal control.

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Springer Nature
Nature Commun.
Self-Organizing Matter

Bistervels, M., Antalicz, B., Kamp, M., Schoenmaker, H., & Noorduin, W. (2023). Light-driven nucleation, growth, and patterning of biorelevant crystals using resonant near-infrared laser heating. Nature Commun., 14(1), 6350: 1–9. doi:10.1038/s41467-023-42126-4