Fractionalization of interstitials in curved colloidal crystals

William T.M. Irvine, Mark J. Bowick, Paul M. Chaikin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Understanding the effect of curvature and topological frustration in crystals yields insights into the fragility of the ordered state. For instance, a one-dimensional crystal of identical charged particles can accommodate an extra particle (interstitial) if all the particle positions are readjusted, yet in a planar hexagonal crystal interstitials remain trapped between lattice sites and diffuse by hopping. Using optical tweezers operated independently of three-dimensional imaging, we inserted interstitials in a lattice of similar colloidal particles sitting on flat or curved oil/glycerol interfaces, and imaged the ensuing dynamics. We find that, unlike in flat space, the curved crystals self-heal through a collective particle rearrangement that redistributes the increased density associated with the interstitial. This process can be interpreted in terms of the out-of-equilibrium interaction of topological defects with each other and with the underlying curvature. Our observations suggest the existence of particle fractionalization on curved surface crystals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)948-951
Number of pages4
JournalNature Materials
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Fractionalization of interstitials in curved colloidal crystals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this