Visualization of Dislocation Dynamics in Colloidal Crystals

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Science  24 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5692, pp. 1944-1948
DOI: 10.1126/science.1102186

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The dominant mechanism for creating large irreversible strain in atomic crystals is the motion of dislocations, a class of line defects in the crystalline lattice. Here we show that the motion of dislocations can also be observed in strained colloidal crystals, allowing detailed investigation of their topology and propagation. We describe a laser diffraction microscopy setup used to study the growth and structure of misfit dislocations in colloidal crystalline films. Complementary microscopic information at the single-particle level is obtained with a laser scanning confocal microscope. The combination of these two techniques enables us to study dislocations over a range of length scales, allowing us to determine important parameters of misfit dislocations such as critical film thickness, dislocation density, Burgers vector, and lattice resistance to dislocation motion. We identify the observed dislocations as Shockley partials that bound stacking faults of vanishing energy. Remarkably, we find that even on the scale of a few lattice vectors, the dislocation behavior is well described by the continuum approach commonly used to describe dislocations in atomic crystals.

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