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Review of aragonite and calcite crystal morphogenesis in thermal spring systems.

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  • Aragonite and calcite crystals are the fundamental building blocks of calcareous thermal spring deposits. The diverse array of crystal morphologies found in these deposits, which includes monocrystals, mesocrystals, skeletal crystals, dendrites, and spherulites, are commonly precipitated under far-from-equilibrium conditions. Such crystals form through both abiotic and biotic processes. Many crystals develop through non-classical crystal growth models that involve the arrangement of nanocrystals in a precisely controlled crystallographic register. Calcite crystal morphogenesis has commonly been linked to a “driving force”, which is a conceptual measure of the distance of the growth conditions from equilibrium conditions. Essentially, this scheme indicates that increasing levels of supersaturation and various other parameters that produce a progressive change from monocrystals and mesocrystals to skeletal crystals to crystallographic and non-crystallographic dendrites, to dumbbells, to spherulites. Despite the vast amount of information available from laboratory experiments and natural spring systems, the precise factors that control the driving force are open to debate. The fact that calcite crystal morphogenesis is still poorly understood is largely a reflection of the complexity of the factors that influence aragonite and calcite precipitation. Available information indicates that variations in calcite crystal morphogenesis can be attributed to physical and chemical parameters of the parent water, the presence of impurities, the addition of organic or inorganic additives to the water, the rate of crystal growth, and/or the presence of microbes and their associated biofilms. The problems in trying to relate crystal morphogenesis to specific environmental parameters arise because it is generally impossible to disentangle the controlling factor(s) from the vast array of potential parameters that may act alone or in unison with each other.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International