Particles forced to assemble inside a sphere form ordered ribbons
Courtesy of Guangnan Meng and V. Manoharan/Harvard Univ.
Scientists don’t need a crystal ball to predict how crystalline solids grow on flat planes. But it might come in handy for curved surfaces.
By trapping particles in tiny balls of water, scientists got their first glimpse of crystal formation in rounded environments. Researchers found that the caged crystals formed arched ribbons inside the sphere rather than the compact clumps seen on flat surfaces. The findings appear in the Feb. 7 Science.
Curves offer a particular challenge for forming crystals, which are solids with molecules, atoms or other subunits assembled in ordered, symmetrical patterns. Chemical engineer Vinothan Manoharan of Harvard explains that growing crystals around a sphere “is kind of like trying to gift wrap a basketball.”
Scientists knew that encounters with curves cause crystals to develop defects — or pattern breaks — but