Building Materials by Packing Spheres
V.N. Manoharan and D.J. Pine, MRS Bulletin 29 (2): 91–95 (2004)
colloids, microspheres, optical materials, packing, structure.
An effective way to build ordered materials with micrometer- or submicrometer-sized features is to pack together monodisperse (equal-sized) colloidal particles. But most monodisperse particles in this size range are spheres, and thus one problem in building new micrometer-scale ordered materials is controlling how spheres pack. In this article, we discuss how this problem can be approached by constructing and studying packings in the few-sphere limit. Confinement of particles within containers such as micropatterned holes or spherical droplets can lead to some unexpected and diverse types of polyhedra that may become building blocks for more complex materials. The packing processes that form these polyhedra may also be a source of disorder in dense bulk suspensions.