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Crystal structure and properties

Many properties of materials are affected by their crystal structure. This structure can be investigated using a range of crystallographic techniques, including X-ray crystallography, neutron diffraction and electron diffraction. The sizes of the individual crystals in a crystalline solid material vary depending on the material involved and the conditions when it was formed. Most crystalline materials encountered in everyday life are polycrystalline, with the individual crystals being microscopic in scale, but macroscopic single crystals can be produced either naturally (e.g. diamonds) or artificially. Real crystals feature defects or irregularities in the ideal arrangements, and it is these defects that critically determine many of the electrical and mechanical properties of real materials. The crystal lattice can vibrate. These vibrations are found to be quantised, the quantised vibrational modes being known as phonons. Phonons play a major role in many of the physical properties of solids, such as the transmission of sound. In insulating solids, phonons are also the primary mechanism by which heat conduction takes place. Phonons are also necessary for understanding the lattice heat capacity of a solid, as in the Einstein model and the later Debye model. In mineralogy and crystallography, crystal structure is a unique arrangement of atoms or molecules in a crystalline liquid or solid.[1] A crystal structure is composed of a pattern, a set of atoms arranged in a particular way, and a lattice exhibiting long-range order and symmetry. Patterns are located upon the points of a lattice, which is an array of points repeating periodically in three dimensions. The points can be thought of as forming identical tiny boxes, called unit cells, that fill the space of the lattice. The lengths of the edges of a unit cell and the angles between them are called the lattice parameters. The symmetry properties of the crystal are embodied in its space group.[1] A crystal's structure and symmetry play a role in determining many of its physical properties, such as cleavage, electronic band structure, and optical transparency. Electron diffraction refers to the wave nature of electrons. However, from a technical or practical point of view, it may be regarded as a technique used to study matter by firing electrons at a sample and observing the resulting interference pattern. This phenomenon is commonly known as the wave-particle duality, which states that the behavior of a particle of matter (in this case the incident electron) can be described by a wave. For this reason, an electron can be regarded as a wave much like sound or water waves. This technique is similar to X-ray and neutron diffraction. Electron diffraction is most frequently used in solid state physics and chemistry to study the crystal structure of solids. Experiments are usually performed in a transmission electron microscope (TEM), or a scanning electron microscope (SEM) as electron backscatter diffraction. In these instruments, electrons are accelerated by an electrostatic potential in order to gain the desired energy and determine their wavelength before they interact with the sample to be studied. The periodic structure of a crystalline solid acts as a diffraction grating, scattering the electrons in a predictable manner. Working back from the observed diffraction pattern, it may be possible to deduce the structure of the crystal producing the diffraction pattern. However, the technique is limited by the phase problem. Apart from the study of crystals i.e. electron crystallography, electron diffraction is also a useful technique to study the short range order of amorphous solids, and the geometry of gaseous molecules.

 
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