Caltech Undergraduate Research Journal

CURJ is Caltech's award-winning undergraduate research journal, dedicated to highlighting the accomplishments of the numerous undergraduates conducting research at Caltech during the SURF program and throughout the academic year.

Featured Article

Crystals Grow Quick in E-Fields

Molly Swanson and Ken Libbrecht

An image for the article on display.

CRYSTALS HAVE LONG BEEN PRIZED for both their beauty and their utility, but the interest scientists have for them has little to do with their aesthetic value. The mechanics of crystal growth present an incredibly complicated system that has perplexed scientists for centuries. Much theoretical work has been done on the mechanisms involved in crystal growth, but several aspects are still unexplained. The equations decribing crystal growth are very complicated, and have yet to be fully solved, while there are effects seen in experiments that the theories can't explain. Additionally, the behavior of highly faceted crystals is not well understood, because the highly complex shapes render the theoretical calculations prohibitively difficult to solve. This is unfortunate, as crystals have many industrial applications, including solid-state lasers, flat screen computer displays, and a wide variety of other devices, so information about crystal growth could potentially bear great dividends. But beyond these tangible benefits, studies of crystal growth could bring, there is also the thrill of uncovering a deeper understanding of these remarkable systems - crystals form some of the most beautiful structures in nature, such as snowflakes and diamonds, and doing these crystal growth experiments can help explain how and why these fascinating systems form...