Crystallization is the assembly of atoms or molecules into highly ordered solid crystals, which occurs in natural, biological, and artificial systems. However, crystallization in confined spaces, such as the formation of the protein shell of a virus, is poorly understood. Researchers are trying to control the structure of the final crystal formed in a confined space to obtain crystals with desired properties, which requires thorough knowledge of the crystallization process.
A research group at Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo and Fudan University led by Hajime Tanaka and Peng Tan used a droplet of a colloid — a dispersion of liquid particles in another liquid, like milk — as a model for single atoms or molecules in a sphere. Unlike single atoms or molecules, which are too small to easily observe, the colloid particles were large enough to visualize using a microscope. This allowed the researchers to track