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J Colloid Interface Sci. 2010 Oct 15;350(2):381-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jcis.2010.04.072. Epub 2010 Jun 12.

Colloidal crystal growth monitored by Bragg diffraction interference fringes.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


We monitored the crystal growth kinetics of crystallization of a shear melted crystalline colloidal array (CCA). The fcc CCA heterogeneously nucleates at the flow cell wall surface. We examined the evolution of the (1 1 1) Bragg diffraction peak, and, for the first time, quantitatively monitored growth by measuring the temporal evolution of the Bragg diffraction interference fringes. Modeling of the evolution of the fringe patterns exposes the time dependence of the increasing crystal thickness. The initial diffusion-driven linear growth is followed by ripening-driven growth. Between 80 and 90 microM NaCl concentrations the fcc crystals first linearly grow at rates between 1.9 and 4.2 microm/s until they contact homogeneously nucleated crystals in the bulk. At lower salt concentrations interference fringes are not visible because the strong electrostatic interactions between particles result in high activation barriers, preventing defect annealing and leading to a lower crystal quality. The fcc crystals melt to a liquid phase at >90 microM NaCl concentrations. Increasing NaCl concentrations slow the fcc CCA growth rate consistent with the expectation of the classical Wilson-Frenkel growth theory. The final thickness of wall-nucleated CCA, that is determined by the competition between growth of heterogeneously and homogenously nucleated CCA, increases with higher NaCl concentrations.

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