Direct observation of crystallization and melting with colloids

Hyerim Hwang, David A. Weitz, Frans Spaepen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We study the kinetics of crystal growth and melting of two types of colloidal crystals: body-centered cubic (BCC) crystals and face-centered cubic (FCC) crystals. A dielectrophoretic “electric bottle” confines colloids, enabling precise control of the motion of the interface. We track the particle motion, and by introducing a structural order parameter, we measure the jump frequencies of particles to and from the crystal and determine from these the free-energy difference between the phases and the interface mobility. We find that the interface is rough in both BCC and FCC cases. Moreover, the jump frequencies correspond to those expected from the random walk of the particles, which translates to collision-limited growth in metallic systems. The mobility of the BCC interface is greater than that of the FCC interface. In addition, contrary to the prediction of some early computer simulations, we show that there is no significant asymmetry between the mobilities for crystallization and melting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180-1184
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - 22 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

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© 2019 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.


  • Colloids
  • Crystallization
  • Kinetics
  • Melting
  • Phase transformation


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