Download citation
Download citation
link to html
Mass transport takes place within the mesoscopic to macroscopic scale range and plays a key role in crystal growth that may affect the result of the crystallization experiment. The influence of mass transport is different depending on the crystallization technique employed, essentially because each technique reaches supersaturation in its own unique way. In the case of batch experiments, there are some complex phenomena that take place at the interface between solutions upon mixing. These transport instabilities may drastically affect the reproducibility of crystallization experiments, and different outcomes may be obtained depending on whether or not the drop is homogenized. In diffusion experiments with aqueous solutions, evaporation leads to fascinating transport phenomena. When a drop starts to evaporate, there is an increase in concentration near the interface between the drop and the air until a nucleation event eventually takes place. Upon growth, the weight of the floating crystal overcomes the surface tension and the crystal falls to the bottom of the drop. The very growth of the crystal then triggers convective flow and inhomogeneities in supersaturation values in the drop owing to buoyancy of the lighter concentration-depleted solution surrounding the crystal. Finally, the counter-diffusion technique works if, and only if, diffusive mass transport is assured. The technique relies on the propagation of a supersaturation wave that moves across the elongated protein chamber and is the result of the coupling of reaction (crystallization) and diffusion. The goal of this review is to convince protein crystal growers that in spite of the small volume of the typical protein crystallization setup, transport plays a key role in the crystal quality, size and phase in both screening and optimization experiments.

Follow Acta Cryst. F
Sign up for e-alerts
Follow Acta Cryst. on Twitter
Follow us on facebook
Sign up for RSS feeds