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Science. 2005 Aug 19;309(5738):1231-3.

Colloidal hard-sphere crystal growth frustrated by large spherical impurities.

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  • 1Van't Hoff Laboratory, Debye Research Institute, University of Utrecht, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH Utrecht, Netherlands.


Impurities affect the nucleation, growth, and structure of crystals. Here we report the effect of large, spherical, polymethylmethacrylate impurities on the crystal growth of monodisperse, hard, polymethylmethacrylate colloids in a density- and optically matching apolar solvent mixture. Crystal growth, initiated at the bottom of the sample, was studied by imaging sequences of two-dimensional xy slices in the plane of the impurity's center with a laser scanning confocal microscope. Impurities form the center of grain boundaries, and a single fluid particle layer around the impurity persists in all cases. The growth rate sensitively depends on the impurity's size. Crystal growth is inhibited to a greater extent near smaller impurities, pointing to local crystal frustration induced by the curvature of the impurity.

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