Colloidal Crystal - Introduction

Introduction

A colloidal crystal is a highly ordered array of particles which can be formed over a long range (to about a centimeter). Arrays such as this appear to be analogous to their atomic or molecular counterparts with proper scaling considerations. A good natural example of this phenomenon can be found in precious opal, where brilliant regions of pure spectral color result from close-packed domains of colloidal spheres of amorphous silicon dioxide, SiO2 (see above illustration). The spherical particles precipitate in highly siliceous pools and form highly ordered arrays after years of sedimentation and compression under hydrostatic and gravitational forces. The periodic arrays of spherical particles make similar arrays of interstitial voids, which act as a natural diffraction grating for light waves in photonic crystals, especially when the interstitial spacing is of the same order of magnitude as the incident lightwave.

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