Does It Matter How Atoms ?
How atoms pack produce their properties. Properties like density. conductivity, melting point, and heat capacity.
For example with metals, how atoms pack controls how ductile, malleable, and how resistant to shock.
Similarly, ionic compounds form ceramics to make super conductors, nanoparticles, and quantum dots. Further, these depend on surface science, which involves how atoms pack.
Atoms Pack As Spheres
Imagine atoms as simple spheres. They begin like a collection of a loose bag of marbles.
Two Dimensional Atoms Pack
Spheres follow a set of rules when they pack. First. they press as close as possible. Each sphere has the most number of contacts.
Put them together to fit the maximum number of spheres in a square.
This results in two ways to place the spheres become possible, Figure 1.
This causes the spheres to adopt a square packed array or a close packed arrangement.
How Square Atoms Pack
In the case of square packed atoms, each atom touches four atoms. You might think this makes the most efficient way. However, pay attention to the empty space between the atoms.
This results in makes the packing efficiency 79%.
How Hexagonal Atoms Pack
Circles pack more efficiently if the next row nestles into the gap where two circles in the first row touch.
As a result, this allows each atom to touch six neighbors. Therefore the atoms use 91% of the unit cell’s volume.
Three Dimensional Atoms Packed
In addition, the three dimensional structure of a crystal emerges as more layers take their place.
The Second Layer Atoms Packed
Furthermore, the second layer packs in the depression made when atoms touch in the first layer, Figure 2.
As a result, the pattern made in the in the first layer repeats in the second layer. This causes the atoms to shift. It creates depressions where the spheres touch.
Third Layer Atoms Packed
To continue, the latent structure of a crystal structure expresses becomes apparent when the third layer adds, Figure 3.
The third layer of atoms fit into the depressions created where atoms touch.
Cubic Packed Atoms
The cubic packed structure produces the same pattern in the third layer.
This means spheres in the third level rest over empty space where atoms on the first layer meet.
Close Packed Atoms
In contrast, close packed atoms have two ways to place the third layer, Figure 4.
Hexagonal Close Packed Atoms
The first way puts atoms in the groove directly above atoms of the first layer. This creates a hexagonal close packed structure, (hcp).
Cubic Close Packed Atoms
To continue, the second way puts the atoms in a groove directly above a groove in the first layer. This results in a cubic close packed structure, (ccp).
The Three Most Common Way Atoms Pack
Consequently, these three ways atoms pack form the majority of crystal structures. Knowing these three forms the basis of the properties of metals and ionic solids.
Atoms Pack In Unit Cells
Generally speaking, you often find the structure of solids expressed in terms of their unit cells, Figure 5.
Body Centered Cubic
First of all, cubic packing makes a body-centered cubic unit cells. A central atom occupies space within a cube.
Every corner atom accounts for 1/8 of an atom. The atom at the center contributes 1 atom. This results in a total of 2 atoms in a bcc unit cell.
Face Centered Cubic
Next, cubic close packed atoms make a face-centered cubic packed unit cell. Each corner has an atom. The face has an atom at the center of each face.
Consequently, every atom on a corner adds 1/8 of an atom. Each atom at a face adds 1/2 of an atom. There is a total of 3 atoms in each unit cell.
Finally, hexagonal close packed atoms form a hexagonal unit cell. This takes into account the hexagonal surfaces. The interior triangle of atoms reside inside the unit cell, Figure 6.
In that vein, each edge atom contributes 1/6 of an atom. Each central on the face adds 1/2 an atom. The three interior atoms give 3 atoms.
Therefore, a hexagonal unit cell contains 6 atoms.
To sum up what this means:
- Common unit cells result from how atoms pack
- The three most important structures come from cubic packing, cubic close packing, and hexagonal close packing.
- Cubic packed atoms produce a body-centered cubic unit cell.
- The way close packed atoms get placed on top of the second row creates two possible close packed structures.
- Cubic close packing produces face-centered cubic unit cells.
- Hexagonal close packing generates hexagonal unit cells.