Research shows potential for quasicrystals

Mar 20, 2013 by Ariel Duchene
Two-dimensional Penrose type quasicrystal made using only two tile shapes: a thick rhomb and a thin rhomb. The structure proposed by Roger Penrose lacks translational symmetry and exhibits five-fold rotational symmetry not allowed in regular crystals.

( —Ever since their discovery in 1984, the burgeoning area of research looking at quasiperiodic structures has revealed astonishing opportunities in a number of areas of fundamental and applied research, including applications in lasing and sensing. Quasiperiodic structures, or quasicrystals, because of their unique ordering of atoms and a lack of periodicity, possess remarkable crystallographic, physical and optical properties not present in regular crystals.

In the article "Optics of photonic ," in the March issue of Nature Photonics, Amit Agrawal, professor in the Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science along with his colleagues from the University of Utah present the history of quasicrystals and how this area can open up numerous opportunities in fundamental optics research including possibilities for building smaller , performing lithography at a much smaller length scale and making more efficient optical devices that can be used for biosensing, or spectroscopy applications.

Up until their discovery, researchers including crystallographers, material scientists, physicists and engineers, only focused around two kinds of structures: periodic (e.g. a simple cubic lattice) and random (e.g. amorphous solids such as glass). are known for their predictable symmetry, both rotational and translational, and they were believed to be the only kinds of repeating structures that could occur in nature. From basic , these structures are only allowed to exhibit strict 2, 3, 4 or 6-fold rotational symmetry, i.e., upon rotation by a certain angle about a crystallographic axis, the shape would still look identical upon each rotation. It was not believed that there could be a structure that existed which violated these four symmetry rules. Random systems, the other big area of research, looks at amorphous or disordered media like gases.

The introduction of quasicrystals - an ordered structure that lacks periodicity, exhibits some properties similar to periodic structures (such as atomic ordering over large-length scales) while violates rotational symmetry rules associated with them (i.e., a quasicrystal can exhibit 5 or 8 fold rotational symmetry) - was an area initially met with resistance from the research community. Agrawal explores this transition from skepticism to the ultimate acceptance by a growing number of researchers exploring the potential of these unique structures.

Explore further: Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

Related Stories

Quasicrystal mystery unraveled with computer simulation

Mar 06, 2008

The method to the madness of quasicrystals has been a mystery to scientists. Quasicrystals are solids whose atoms aren't arranged in a repeating pattern, as they are in ordinary crystals. Yet they form intricate patterns ...

What do phasons look like?

Jun 06, 2012

( -- When illuminated by laser light, assorted colloidal particles can arrange themselves into highly ordered structures called quasicrystals. By changing the phases of the lasers, researchers can ...

Recommended for you

Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

Dec 26, 2014

In a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light par ...

Controlling core switching in Pac-man disks

Dec 24, 2014

Magnetic vortices in thin films can encode information in the perpendicular magnetization pointing up or down relative to the vortex core. These binary states could be useful for non-volatile data storage ...

World's most complex crystal simulated

Dec 24, 2014

The most complicated crystal structure ever produced in a computer simulation has been achieved by researchers at the University of Michigan. They say the findings help demonstrate how complexity can emerge ...

Atoms queue up for quantum computer networks

Dec 24, 2014

In order to develop future quantum computer networks, it is necessary to hold a known number of atoms and read them without them disappearing. To do this, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have developed ...

New video supports radiation dosimetry audits

Dec 23, 2014

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), working with the National Radiotherapy Trials Quality Assurance Group, has produced a video guide to support physicists participating in radiation dosimetry audits.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.