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Surprising discovery: X-rays drive formation of new crystals
Date:1/25/2010

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"There was a dramatic change in the way filaments scattered the radiation," said first author Honggang Cui, a postdoctoral fellow in Stupp's lab. "The X-rays turned a disordered structure into something ordered -- a crystal."

The X-rays increase the charge of the filaments, and thus a repulsive electrostatic force drives the crystallization -- a hexagonal stacking of filaments. Trapped in a three-dimensional network, the charged bundled filaments are unable to escape from each other. The crystals disappear when the X-rays are turned off, and the material is not significantly damaged by the radiation.

As a result of repulsive forces, the filaments are positioned far apart from each other, with as much as 320 angstroms separating the filaments. This striking feature is not found in ordinary crystals where molecules are less than five angstroms apart.

"There are oceans of water inside the crystal," Stupp said. "More than 99 percent of the structure is water." The researchers also observed that when the concentration of the charged filaments in solution was higher, the same crystals formed spontaneously without the need to expose them to X-rays.


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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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