Research Article

Premelting at Defects Within Bulk Colloidal Crystals

Science  19 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5738, pp. 1207-1210
DOI: 10.1126/science.1112399

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Abstract

Premelting is the localized loss of crystalline order at surfaces and defects at temperatures below the bulk melting transition. It can be thought of as the nucleation of the melting process. Premelting has been observed at the surfaces of crystals but not within. We report observations of premelting at grain boundaries and dislocations within bulk colloidal crystals using real-time video microscopy. The crystals are equilibrium close-packed, three-dimensional colloidal structures made from thermally responsive microgel spheres. Particle tracking reveals increased disorder in crystalline regions bordering defects, the amount of which depends on the type of defect, distance from the defect, and particle volume fraction. Our observations suggest that interfacial free energy is the crucial parameter for premelting in colloidal and atomic-scale crystals.

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