PerspectiveMaterials Science

Order from Disorder

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Science  17 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6096, pp. 812-813
DOI: 10.1126/science.1226048

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Summary

Our understanding of the atomic structure of materials relies on our ability to describe structural characteristics such as the short-range order (in the case of liquids or amorphous materials) or the periodicity inherent to crystalline materials. On page 825 of this issue, L. Wang et al. (1) challenge our understanding of the inherent disorder that can be present in a crystal by presenting evidence for a crystalline material composed of amorphous clusters. They show that C60 molecules from the crystalline solvated fullerene phase C60*m-xylene undergo an order-to-disorder transition under compression at ≈35 GPa but keep their translational symmetry. A material can still possess long-range order even though its fundamental building blocks are disordered.