Colloidal crystals are receiving increased attention, largely due to their mechanisms of ordering and self-assembly, cooperative motion, structures similar to those observed in condensed matter by both liquids and solids, and structural phase transitions. Phase equilibrium has been considered within the context of their physical similarities, with appropriate scaling, to elastic solids. Observations of the interparticle separation distance has shown a decrease on ordering. This led to a re-evaluation of Langmuir's beliefs about the existence of a long-range attractive component in the interparticle potential.
Colloidal crystals have found application in optics as photonic crystals. Photonics is the science of generating, controlling, and detecting photons (packets of light), particularly in the visible and near Infrared, but also extending to the Ultraviolet, Infrared and far IR portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The science of photonics includes the emission, transmission, amplification, detection, modulation, and switching of lightwaves over a broad range of frequencies and wavelengths. Photonic devices include electro-optic components such as lasers (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) and optical fiber. Applications include telecommunications, information processing, illumination, spectroscopy, holography, medicine (surgery, vision correction, endoscopy), military (guided missile) technology, agriculture and robotics.
Polycrystalline colloidal structures have been identified as the basic elements of submicrometre colloidal materials science. Molecular self-assembly has been observed in various biological systems and underlies the formation of a wide variety of complex biological structures. This includes an emerging class of mechanically superior biomaterials based on microstructure features and designs found in nature.
The principal mechanical characteristics and structures of biological ceramics, polymer composites, elastomers, and cellular materials are being re-evaluated, with an emphasis on bioinspired materials and structures. Traditional approaches focus on design methods of biological materials using conventional synthetic materials. The uses have been identified in the synthesis of bioinspired materials through processes that are characteristic of biological systems in nature. This includes the nanoscale self-assembly of the components and the development of hierarchical structures.
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