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Controlling crystallization and its absence: Proteins, colloids and patchy models

Jonathan P. K. Doye, Ard A. Louis, I-Chun Lin, Lucy R. Allen, Eva G. Noya, Alex W. Wilber, Hoong Chwan Kok and Rosie Lyus

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 9, 2197-2205 (2007)


The ability to control the crystallization behaviour (including its absence) of particles, be they biomolecules such as globular proteins, inorganic colloids, nanoparticles, or metal atoms in an alloy, is of both fundamental and technological importance. Much can be learnt from the exquisite control that biological systems exert over the behaviour of proteins, where protein crystallization and aggregation are generally suppressed, but where in particular instances complex crystalline assemblies can be formed that have a functional purpose. We also explore the insights that can be obtained from computational modelling, focussing on the subtle interplay between the interparticle interactions, the preferred local order and the resulting crystallization kinetics. In particular, we highlight the role played by ``frustration'', where there is an incompatibility between the preferred local order and the global crystalline order, using examples from atomic glass formers and model anisotropic particles.

The full paper is available from PCCP and arXiv.org. It features on the cover of the 14 May 2007 issue.