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Phys Rev Lett. 2010 Dec 3;105(23):237801. Epub 2010 Dec 1.

Homogeneous bulk, surface, and edge nucleation in crystalline nanodroplets.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


The birth of a crystal is initiated by a nucleus from which the crystal grows--a dust grain in a snowflake is a familiar example. These nuclei can be heterogeneous defects, like the dust grain, or homogeneous nuclei which are intrinsic to the material. Here we study homogeneous nucleation in nanoscale polymer droplets on a substrate which itself can be crystalline or amorphous. We observe a large difference in the nucleating ability of the substrate. Furthermore, the scaling dependence of nucleation on the size of the droplets proves that the birth of the crystalline state can be directed to originate predominantly within the bulk, at the substrate surface, or at the droplets' edge, depending on how we tune the substrate.

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