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Concept: Crystal growth


Unipolar resistance switching (RS) in TiO2 thin films originates from the repeated formation and rupture of the Magnéli phase conducting filaments through repeated nano-scale phase transitions. By applying the Johnson-Mehl-Avrami (JMA) type kinetic model to the careful analysis on the evolution of transient current in a pulse-switching, it was possible to elucidate the material specific evolution of the Magnéli phase filament. This methodology was applied to the two types of TiO2 films grown by plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition (PEALD) and sputtering. These two samples have structurally and electrically distinctive properties: PEALD film exhibited high variability in switching parameters and required an electroforming while sputtered film showed higher uniformity without distinct electroforming process. The JMA-type kinetic analysis of the RS behaviors revealed that the rejuvenation of the filament is accomplished by repeated one-dimensional nucleation followed by a two-dimensional growth in PEALD samples, whereas one-dimensional nucleation-free mechanism dominates in sputtered films.

Concepts: Layer, Manifold, Chemical vapor deposition, Thin film, Spinodal decomposition, Crystal growth, Sputtering, Self-cleaning glass


Supereruptions catastrophically eject 100s-1000s of km3 of magma to the surface in a matter of days to a few months. In this study, we use zoning in quartz crystals from the Bishop Tuff (California) to assess the timescales over which a giant magma body transitions from relatively quiescent, pre-eruptive crystallization to rapid decompression and eruption. Quartz crystals in the Bishop Tuff have distinctive rims (<200 μm thick), which are Ti-rich and bright in cathodoluminescence (CL) images, and which can be used to calculate Ti diffusional relaxation times. We use synchrotron-based x-ray microfluorescence to obtain quantitative Ti maps and profiles along rim-interior contacts in quartz at resolutions of 1-5 μm in each linear dimension. We perform CL imaging on a scanning electron microscope (SEM) using a low-energy (5 kV) incident beam to characterize these contacts in high resolution (<1 μm in linear dimensions). Quartz growth times were determined using a 1D model for Ti diffusion, assuming initial step functions. Minimum quartz growth rates were calculated using these calculated growth times and measured rim thicknesses. Maximum rim growth times span from ~1 min to 35 years, with a median of ~4 days. More than 70% of rim growth times are less than 1 year, showing that quartz rims have mostly grown in the days to months prior to eruption. Minimum growth rates show distinct modes between 10-8 and 10-10 m/s (depending on sample), revealing very fast crystal growth rates (100s of nm to 10s of μm per day). Our data show that quartz rims grew well within a year of eruption, with most of the growth happening in the weeks or days preceding eruption. Growth took place under conditions of high supersaturation, suggesting that rim growth marks the onset of decompression and the transition from pre-eruptive to syn-eruptive conditions.

Concepts: Electron, Crystal, Dimension, Igneous rock, Scanning electron microscope, Crystallization, Crystal growth, Granite


The microscopic kinetics of ubiquitous solid-solid phase transitions remain poorly understood. Here, by using single-particle-resolution video microscopy of colloidal films of diameter-tunable microspheres, we show that transitions between square and triangular lattices occur via a two-step diffusive nucleation pathway involving liquid nuclei. The nucleation pathway is favoured over the direct one-step nucleation because the energy of the solid/liquid interface is lower than that between solid phases. We also observed that nucleation precursors are particle-swapping loops rather than newly generated structural defects, and that coherent and incoherent facets of the evolving nuclei exhibit different energies and growth rates that can markedly alter the nucleation kinetics. Our findings suggest that an intermediate liquid should exist in the nucleation processes of solid-solid transitions of most metals and alloys, and provide guidance for better control of the kinetics of the transition and for future refinements of solid-solid transition theory.

Concepts: Iron, Metal, Solid, Surface tension, Phase transition, Supercooling, Spinodal decomposition, Crystal growth


Crystalline materials are crucial to the function of living organisms, in the shells of molluscs, the matrix of bone, the teeth of sea urchins, and the exoskeletons of coccoliths. However, pathological biomineralization can be an undesirable crystallization process associated with human diseases. The crystal growth of biogenic, natural and synthetic materials may be regulated by the action of modifiers, most commonly inhibitors, which range from small ions and molecules to large macromolecules. Inhibitors adsorb on crystal surfaces and impede the addition of solute, thereby reducing the rate of growth. Complex inhibitor-crystal interactions in biomineralization are often not well elucidated. Here we show that two molecular inhibitors of calcium oxalate monohydrate crystallization-citrate and hydroxycitrate-exhibit a mechanism that differs from classical theory in that inhibitor adsorption on crystal surfaces induces dissolution of the crystal under specific conditions rather than a reduced rate of crystal growth. This phenomenon occurs even in supersaturated solutions where inhibitor concentration is three orders of magnitude less than that of the solute. The results of bulk crystallization, in situ atomic force microscopy, and density functional theory studies are qualitatively consistent with a hypothesis that inhibitor-crystal interactions impart localized strain to the crystal lattice and that oxalate and calcium ions are released into solution to alleviate this strain. Calcium oxalate monohydrate is the principal component of human kidney stones and citrate is an often-used therapy, but hydroxycitrate is not. For hydroxycitrate to function as a kidney stone treatment, it must be excreted in urine. We report that hydroxycitrate ingested by non-stone-forming humans at an often-recommended dose leads to substantial urinary excretion. In vitro assays using human urine reveal that the molecular modifier hydroxycitrate is as effective an inhibitor of nucleation of calcium oxalate monohydrate nucleation as is citrate. Our findings support exploration of the clinical potential of hydroxycitrate as an alternative treatment to citrate for kidney stones.

Concepts: Kidney, Crystal, Chemistry, Urinary bladder, Crystallization, Kidney stone, Nucleation, Crystal growth


Hybrid organic/lead halide perovskites are promising materials for solar cell fabrication, resulting in efficiencies up to 18%. The most commonly-studied perovskites are CH3NH3PbI3 and CH3NH3Pb(I3-xClx) where x is small. Importantly, in the latter system, the presence of chloride ion source in the starting solutions used for the perovskite deposition results in a strong increase in the overall charge diffusion length. In this work we investigate the crystallization parameters relevant to fabrication of perovskite materials based on CH3NH3PbI3 and CH3NH3PbBr3. We find that the addition of PbCl2 to the solutions used in the perovskite synthesis has a remarkable effect on the end product, because PbCl2 nanocrystals are present during the fabrication process, acting as heterogeneous nucleation sites for the formation of perovskite crystals in solution. We base this conclusion on SEM studies, synthesis of perovskite single crystals, and on cryo-TEM imaging of the frozen mother liquid. Our studies also included the effect of different substrates and substrate temperatures on the perovskite nucleation efficiency. In view of our findings, we optimized the procedures for solar cells based on lead bromide perovskite, resulting in 5.7% efficiency and Voc of 1.24 V, improving the performance in this class of devices. Insights gained from understanding the hybrid perovskite crystallization process can aid in rational design of the polycrystalline absorber films, leading to their improved performance.

Concepts: Crystal, Ion, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Wafer, Crystallization, Nucleation, Crystal growth


Cinchonidine and Theophylline vitrification abilities have been investigated by differential and fast scanning calorimetry. These active pharmaceutical compounds are known in the literature to have a very high tendency to crystallize which has been confirmed by classical differential scanning calorimetry. Due to the growing interest in amorphous pharmaceutical compounds, their possible vitrifications have been investigated by fast scanning calorimetry. This work shows the high potential of this advanced thermal analysis technique to investigate the vitrification of active pharmaceutical compounds by melt-quenching protocol. For the first time, glass transitions of Cinchonidine and Theophylline were measured. From Cinchonidine, it has been shown that complete glassy state can be obtained by cooling from the melt at 2000K/s. Crystallization has also been suppressed by cooling down from the melt at 2K/s. However, such rate does not avoid the formation of nuclei. Theophylline crystallization process has been suppressed by a melt-quenching protocol carried out with a cooling rate of 4000K/s. However, the phenomenon of nuclei formation upon cooling seems unavoidable at this cooling rate. For both active pharmaceutical compounds, physical aging has been observed to play a role on the nuclei formation below the glass transition leading to modify the subsequent crystallization.

Concepts: Crystal, Materials science, Differential scanning calorimetry, Glass, Glass transition, Melting point, Crystal growth, Physics of glass


The functional properties and technological utility of polycrystalline materials are largely determined by the structure, geometry, and spatial distribution of their multitude of crystals. However, crystallization is seeded through stochastic and incoherent nucleation events, limiting the ability to control or pattern the microstructure, texture, and functional properties of polycrystalline materials. We present a universal approach that can program the microstructure of materials through the coherent seeding of otherwise stochastic homogeneous nucleation events. The method relies on creating topographic variations to seed nucleation and growth at designated locations while delaying nucleation elsewhere. Each seed can thus produce a coherent growth front of crystallization with a geometry designated by the shape and arrangement of seeds. Periodic and aperiodic crystalline arrays of functional materials, such as semiconductors, can thus be created on demand and with unprecedented sophistication and ease by patterning the location and shape of the seeds. This approach is used to demonstrate printed arrays of organic thin-film transistors with remarkable performance and reproducibility owing to their demonstrated spatial control over the microstructure of organic and inorganic polycrystalline semiconductors.

Concepts: Crystal, Semiconductor, Materials science, Crystallization, Seed, Nucleation, Crystal growth, Particle image velocimetry


A new rearranged spongian diterpene, darwinolide, has been isolated from the Antarctic Dendroceratid sponge Dendrilla membranosa. Characterized on the basis of spectroscopic and crystallographic analysis, the central seven-membered ring is hypothesized to originate from a ring-expansion of a spongian precursor. Darwinolide displays 4-fold selectivity against the biofilm phase of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus compared to the planktonic phase and may provide a scaffold for the development of therapeutics for this difficult to treat infection.

Concepts: Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Biofilm, Staphylococcaceae, The Central, Crystal growth, Antarctic


Nucleation processes of mixed-phase states are an intrinsic characteristic of first-order phase transitions, typically related to local symmetry breaking. Direct observation of emerging mixed-phase regions in materials showing a first-order metal-insulator transition (MIT) offers unique opportunities to uncover their driving mechanism. Using photoemission electron microscopy, we image the nanoscale formation and growth of insulating domains across the temperature-driven MIT in NdNiO3 epitaxial thin films. Heteroepitaxy is found to strongly determine the nanoscale nature of the phase transition, inducing preferential formation of striped domains along the terraces of atomically flat stepped surfaces. We show that the distribution of transition temperatures is a local property, set by surface morphology and stable across multiple temperature cycles. Our data provide new insights into the MIT of heteroepitaxial nickelates and point to a rich, nanoscale phenomenology in this strongly correlated material.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Phase transition, Superconductivity, Boiling point, Phenomenology, Spinodal decomposition, Crystal growth


The crystallization of solidifying Al-Cu alloys over a wide range of conditions was studied in situ by synchrotron x-ray radiography, and the data were analyzed using a computer vision algorithm trained using machine learning. The effect of cooling rate and solute concentration on nucleation undercooling, crystal formation rate, and crystal growth rate was measured automatically for thousands of separate crystals, which was impossible to achieve manually. Nucleation undercooling distributions confirmed the efficiency of extrinsic grain refiners and gave support to the widely assumed free growth model of heterogeneous nucleation. We show that crystallization occurred in temporal and spatial bursts associated with a solute-suppressed nucleation zone.

Concepts: Crystal, Crystallography, Solid, Machine learning, X-ray crystallography, Crystallization, Nucleation, Crystal growth