The production of these crystals is based on aqueous dispersions, a key competence of BASF. These dispersions contain polymer spherical particles measuring about 200 nanometers which, when the fluid evaporates, are forming a homogeneous protective film as it is expected with the paints. Depending from the chemical structure of the polymer particles they can also arrange themselves into a regular lattice structure, forming a crystal. The challenge facing the Ludwigshafen scientists is to enlarge the polymer particles contained in the dispersions to 1000 nanometers in such a way, that they all have exactly the same diameter. Using emulsion polymerization, they also apply an additional structure measuring less than 20 nanometers onto the polystyrene particles. The intention is to develop the most stable possible, large volume, three-dimensional crystal into which one of the project partners will then introduce the desired structure, the so called "defects".
Light at certain wavelengths then travels along these defects and even around sharp corners: the photonic crystal then acts as a photoconductor and takes the control over the propagation of light. The resulting structured crystal lattice is used in the further manufacturing process as a template, as the scientists call it. The spaces between the polymer spherical particles in the crystal lattice are filled with silicon. The researchers then "burn" the polymer particles out of the lattice. The result: a stable structure that is a mirror image of the original crystal. Crystals of this
|Contact: Melanie Steigelmann|