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Crystals Are Patterns

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crystal.

measured perpendicular to the line of intersection

of two crystal faces. The angle reported is always

the acute angle. It is also the acute angle between

the two normals to the crystal faces, measured in

the plane defined by the two normals. Interfacial

angles can be measured using a contact

goniometer or more precisely using a

reflection goniometer. See Klein & Hurlbut's

figure 2.40.

60

60

12

The interfacial angle between two faces of a mineral crystal is identical for all crystals of the

same mineral that exhibit the corresponding two faces. This is true regardless of the size or

place of origin of the crystals! The observation of the constancy of interfacial angles

was first reported by Nicolas Steno in 1669.

The observation of the constancy of interfacial angles led to the suggestion that crystals are

built according to a pattern from building blocks that are small relative to the size of any

macroscopic crystal.

Pattern recipes require a repeating unit or motif and instructions for how to perform the repeat.

The recipe for a specific pattern may be discovered from the pattern by making some careful

observations. (a) Identify points in the pattern that have identical surroundings, but which are

offset from one another. The set of all such translationally equivalent points is called the

lattice for the pattern. (b) Choose one lattice point to serve as an origin. (c) Connect the

origin with adjacent lattice points (two for two-dimensional patterns, three for threedimensional crystals) with lines (called translations or lattice vectors), making sure that the

lines are not colinear or (for three-dimensions) coplanar. The parallelogram (or parallelepiped)

defined by these two (or three) translations is called the unit cell for the pattern or crystal and

contains within its boundaries the complete recipe for constructing the pattern.

coordinate system for a crystal. Points are located in

crystallographic coordinate systems by

measuring parallel to the unit cell translations. In

practice, this is like using graph paper that has been

stretched, so that the squares become rectangles, or

sheared, so that the squares become parallelograms.

(1,2)

(3,1)

Unit cell translations are labeled a, b, c. Their

positive directions are selected to define a righthanded coordinate system: if the index finger on

b

(0,0)

your right hand points from positive a to positive b,

then your thumb points in the direction of positive c.

a

The angles between unit cell translations are identified

by the Greek letter corresponding to the name of the opposite translation. For example, is the

angle opposite c (i.e. the angle between positive a and positive b). Similarly, the angles

opposite a and b are and , respectively.

(1,2)

(3,1)

(1,2)

(0,0)

(3,1)

a

b

(0,0)

(1,2)

(3,1)

(0,0)

a

centered

centered

primitive

For any given lattice, there are many possible choices of unit cell. Normally, the unit cell

translations are selected so that there is one unit cell for each lattice point. Any such unit cell

would be a primitive unit cell. All primitive unit cells have the same area (or volume). In some

instances, however, it is convenient to choose a larger unit cell such that there is one unit cell

for every two (or more) lattice points. These are called centered unit cells. Centered unit

cells are generally choosen to have a rectangular geometry.

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