MAS.020UF Introduction to Solid State Physics
In a crystal, atoms are arranged in straight rows in a three-dimensional periodic pattern. A small part of the crystal that can be repeated to form the entire crystal is called a unit cell.
Devices such as solid state transistors, lasers, solar cells, and light emitting diodes are often made from single crystals. Many materials, including most metals and ceramics, are polycrystaline. This means there are many little crystals packed together where the orientation between the crystals is random. When the atoms of a material are not arranged in a regular pattern, it is called an amorphous material. An example of an amorphous material is window glass. Even though not all solids are crystals, we will spend most of our time studying crystals since the translational symmetry makes them easier to decribe mathematically. Describing the behavior of more complicating materials usually builds on the understanding that has been acquired by studying crystals.
Some common crystal structures you should know