Squishy crystals - materials physics of imperfections

All crystalline materials are imperfect, and their defects determine their properties. Established theories of how defects interact and evolve are beautiful and elegant, but unfortunately also wrong. That is, they don't work in the technologically relevant limit of nanocrystalline materials.

If you join this project, you will experimentally observe defects in colloidal crystals composed of micron-sized juggling glass beads suspended in a fluid. Our group recently discovered a new type of crystal growth in these materials (see Barth, Martinez et al. 2021), and we have a hunch that a similar mechanism might play an important role in how the boundaries between tiny crystals move and cause the material to age. If we're right about our hunch, this discovery could significantly change the way material scientists model nanocrystalline materials.

What will you do? You'll make colloidal crystals and look at them on a microscope. Use an invisible, high-power laser to disrupt the crystals and form defects, then watch how the crystals heal and age. You'll analyze microscope images and write code to track the motion of defects over time. And you might even write a couple simulations or toy theoretical models along the way. 

Come join us as we try to figure this out! We are looking for a Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 commitment, with the possibility of a position in Summer 2023.

Name of research group, project, or lab
Gerbode Lab
Why join this research group or lab?

We like to work together, and we are looking for friendly, humble, curious students to help us figure things out!

Representative publication
Logistics Information:
Project categories
Materials Science
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

We'll teach you along the way, but it helps if you have used MATLAB before.

Time commitment
Fall - Part Time
Spring - Part Time
Academic Credit
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Microscopy, pseudo-cleanroom techniques, laser tweezers.

Contact Information:
Mentor name
Sharon Gerbode
Mentor email
Mentor position
Principal Investigator
Name of project director or principal investigator
Sharon Gerbode
Email address of project director or principal investigator
3 sp. | 0 appl.
Hours per week
Fall - Part Time (+1)
Fall - Part TimeSpring - Part Time
Project categories
Materials Science (+1)
PhysicsMaterials Science