Transport-Limited Growth of Coccolith Crystals

Emanuel M. Avrahami, Zohar Eyal, Neta Varsano, Ievgeniia Zagoriy, Julia Mahamid, Assaf Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biogenic crystals present a variety of complex morphologies that form with exquisite fidelity. In the case of the intricate morphologies of coccoliths, calcite crystals produced by marine algae, only a single set of crystallographic facets is utilized. It is unclear which growth process can merge this simple crystallographic habit with the species-specific architectures. Here, a suite of state-of-the-art electron microscopies is used to follow both the growth trajectories of the crystals ex situ, and the cellular environment in situ, in the species Emiliania huxleyi. It is shown that crystal growth alternates between a space filling and a skeletonized growth mode, where the crystals elongate via their stable crystallographic facets, but the final morphology is a manifestation of growth arrest. This process is reminiscent of the balance between reaction-limited and transport-limited growth regimes underlying snowflake formation. It is suggested that localized ion transport regulates the kinetic instabilities that are required for transport-limited growth, leading to reproducible morphologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2309547
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number11
StatePublished Online - 13 Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Materials Science


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