Doping colloidal bcc crystals - interstitial solids and meta-stable clusters

Ruben Higler, Joris Sprakel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The addition of a small amount of dopant impurities to crystals is a common method to tune the properties of materials. Usually the doping grade is restricted by the low solubility of the dopants; increasing the doping concentration beyond this solubility limit leads to supersaturated solutions in which dopant clusters dominate the material properties, often leading to deterioration of strength and performance. Descriptions of doped solids often assume that thermal excitations of the on average perfect matrix are small. However, especially for bcc crystals close to their melting point it has recently become clear that the effects of thermal disorder are strong. Here we study the doping of weak bcc crystals of charged colloids via Brownian dynamics simulations. We find a complex phase diagram upon varying the dopant concentration. At low dopant concentrations we find an interstitial solid solution. As we increase the amount of dopants a complex meta-stable liquid-in-solid cluster phase emerges. Ultimately this phase becomes meta-stable with respect to macroscopic crystal-crystal coexistence. These results illustrate the complex behaviour that emerges when thermal excitations of the matrix drive impure crystals to a weak state.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12634
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017


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