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Single crystal


A single crystal, also called monocrystal, is a crystalline solid in which the crystal lattice of the entire sample is continuous and unbroken to the edges of the sample, with no grain boundaries. The opposite of a single crystal sample is an amorphous structure where there the atomic position is limited to short range order only. In between two the extremes exists polycrystalline and paracrystalline phases, which are made up of a number of smaller crystals known as crystallites. Because of a variety of entropic effects on the microstructure of solids, including the distorting effects of impurities and the mobility of crystallographic defects and dislocations, single crystals of meaningful size are exceedingly rare in nature, and can also be difficult to produce in the laboratory under controlled conditions (see also recrystallisation).


Because grain boundaries can have significant effects on the physical and electrical properties of a material, single crystals are of interest to industry, and have important industrial applications. The most notable of these is the use of single crystal silicon in the fabrication of semiconductors. On the quantum scale that microprocessors operate on, the presence of grain boundaries would have a significant impact on the functionality of field effect transistors by altering local electrical properties. Therefore, microprocessor fabricators have invested heavily in facilities to produce large single crystals of silicon.

Fabrication of single crystals usually involves the building of a crystal layer by layer of atoms. Techniques to produce large single crystals (boules) include slowly drawing a rotating "seed crystal" in a molten bath of feeder material (as in the Czochralski process and the Bridgeman technique). Some thin film deposition techniques can be used for epitaxy, forming a new layer of material with the same structure on the surface of an existing single crystal.


Monocrystals of silicon and other semiconductors are important for manufacture of integrated circuits.

Monocrystals of sapphire and other materials are used for lasers and nonlinear optics.

Monocrystals of fluorite are sometimes used in the objective lenses of apochromatic refracting telescopes.

Monocrystals of metals, especially superalloys, are used for their special mechanical properties. Turbine blades of some gas turbines are made of single crystal cast superalloy.

Monocrystals of copper (crystalline copper) are used for fine crystalline powders and hi tech wires.

See also


  • "Small Molecule Crystallization" (PDF) at Illinois Institute of Technology website
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Single_crystal". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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