Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have used computer-based simulations to discover the general mechanism that governs crystal growth in materials – fluctuations in the solvent shield. The solvent shield is a molecular shell comprised of solvent molecules that coalesce around a crystalline material when said material is immersed within a solvent. Fluctuations in this shield allow molecules to break free and incorporate themselves into the crystal's surface in order to grow the overall structure, molecule by molecule. The temperature, the solvent type, and the number of solvent molecules are all controllable variables that determine these shell fluctuations. Manipulation of the fluctuation variables allow crystals to be grown within specific structure, shape, and size parameters.
Now that the mechanism behind crystal growth has been uncovered, scientists and manufacturers will be able to synthesize crystals with increased control and accuracy. This has the potential to positively impact several crystal-based technologies such as drug delivery systems, lithium batteries, semiconductors, agricultural chemicals, and biominerals.
Figure 1: Fluctuations in the solvent shell allow molecules to integrate into the surface of the crystal. Source: Meenesh Singh.
Single crystals, wafers, & substrates of materials to suit a variety of research and production requirements can all be found at MSE Supplies. These materials are essential building blocks in several devices such as LED, ferroelectric, piezoelectric, electro-optical, photonic, high power electronic, and biomechanical devices. Major categories include gallium nitride (GaN), silicon carbide (SiC), graphene films, and silicon wafers.