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Crystals are solid substances that have their constituent atoms and ions arranged in a very neat and orderly pattern. These patterns are always in repeated form and extend in three different directions i.e, X, Y, and Z directions. The word crystal is originates from the Greek word krustallos. It can only be assumed from the name that it was first researched and studied by the Greeks, but no data has been able to provide any really useful information as to its region first study and discovery.

Crystals are unique due to their internal structure and arrangement. They can be either microscopic or macroscopic. The latter is physically identifiable by its geometrical shape of flat faces with specific contours and characteristics. The science of studying crystals is known as crystallography. Crystallography has shown that crystals have their atoms arranged in a certain structure known as crystal structure. Structures of this nature involve atoms arranged in periodic patterns. Its structure is characterised by what is known as a unit cell, which is a small virtual box containing atoms aligned in a spatial arrangement. This cell is further stacked into a three-dimensional space to form a crystal.

The process of crystal growth is known as crystallization. This involves an atom attaching itself to the rougher surface of the crystal or the flat surface. This, in turn, causes the flat surfaces to become larger until the surface is well-formed into the crystal structure. Contrary to general notions, not all solids, are crystals because, there exists, some solids that are similar to crystals. These do not have a periodic arrangement of atoms within their structure, these kinds of solids are known as amorphous solids. Crystals occur abundantly in nature. The largest concentrations of crystals occur in the earth's bedrock, where crystals are formed by a metamorphic process to form crystalline rock. Other forms of occurrence in nature include precipitation from water to form druse, water ice, snow and glacier. Many living organisms like molluscs and hydroxylapatites form crystals such as calcite and aragonite.

Crystals are very useful substances, and their nature of occurrences tends to determine the specific use of crystals. The most useful crystal on earth is the common salt, which is incidentally one of the most abundant crystals. Crystals can contain defect, which is mainly known as impurity i.e, an indication of wrongly positioned atoms in the crystalline structure. Other than that crystals have other defects like vacancy defects, interstitial defects and dislocation. Crystals also finds uses in many electrical applications and most recently in the communication industry with the advent of fibre optics.

 Additional Resources

Concrete Worktops   Crystal Structure   Density

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