Crystal ribbons grow on a curve


We all know that the conditions under which crystals are grown can affect their size and shape. But Guangnan Meng and colleagues at Harvard University in the US wanted to investigate the effects of elastic stress on them, which is increased by growing crystals on a curved surface rather than a flat one.

They tried to grow two-dimensional colloidal crystals on the surface of spherical water droplets and used confocal microscopy to watch what happened. Normally, when grown on a flat surface, the tiny crystallite particles merge together to form flat crystal sheets that grow bigger and bigger. But on a curved surface they can’t fit together, and this tension forces them into narrow, ribbon-like crystalline structures that make a branched pattern on the surface of the drop.  The team say their observations could be useful in some areas of nanotechnology, for example assembling viral capsids or phase separation on vesicles.


Related Content

Polymer puts a new twist on soft robotics

10 February 2014 Research

news image

Clever photochemical switching system lets coiled molecular architecture power a piston

Graphene ribbons exceed theoretical conduction limit

6 February 2014 Research

news image

Smooth-edged nanoribbons could supersede copper in nanoelectronics

Most Read

Graphene sandwich turns water square

27 March 2015 Research

news image

Water trapped between graphene sheets transformed into new type of ice

Simple cooking changes make healthier rice

23 March 2015 Research

news image

Adding oil to water, cooling and reheating rice makes fibre-like resistant starch, reducing calories

Most Commented

Sewage offers attractive source of precious metals

27 March 2015 Research

news image

US Geological Survey team finds valuable metals in treated sewage and is working on the difficult problem of extraction

Thinking ahead

26 March 2015 Critical Point

news image

PhD courses must prepare students for a life after research, says Mark Peplow