Polydispersity-driven topological defects as order-restoring excitations

Zhenwei Yao, Monica Olvera De La Cruz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The engineering of defects in crystallinematter has been extensively exploited tomodify themechanical and electrical properties ofmany materials. Recent experiments on manipulating extended defects in graphene, for example, show that defects direct the flow of electric charges. The fascinating possibilities offered by defects in two dimensions, known as topological defects, to control material properties provide great motivation to perform fundamental investigations to uncover their role in various systems. Previous studies mostly focus on topological defects in 2D crystals on curved surfaces. Onflat geometries, topological defects can be introduced via density inhomogeneities. We investigate here topological defects due to size polydispersity on flat surfaces. Size polydispersity is usually an inevitable feature of a large variety of systems. In this work, simulations show well-organized induced topological defects around an impurity particle of a wrong size. These patterns are not found in systems of identical particles. Our work demonstrates that in polydispersed systems topological defects play the role of restoring order. The simulations show a perfect hexagonal lattice beyond a small defective region around the impurity particle. Elasticity theory has demonstrated an analogy between the elementary topological defects named disclinations to electric charges by associating a charge to a disclination, whose sign depends on the number of its nearest neighbors. Size polydispersity is shown numerically here to be an essential ingredient to understand short-range attractions between like-charge disclinations. Our study suggests that size polydispersity has a promising potential to engineer defects in various systems including nanoparticles and colloidal crystals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5094-5099
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2014


  • Crystallography
  • Dislocation
  • Geometric frustration
  • Soft particles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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