Q:

What is nucleation?

A:

Nucleation is the process that enables the formation of crystals. Crystals may arise from solutions, liquids or vapors but must undergo the process of nucleation to do so. Essentially, nucleation is to crystals what metamorphosis is to insects.

Nucleation begins with the line up and arrangement of crystal particles. These particles include ions, atoms and molecules, which are established in patterns to enable the conversion to solids. Processes of nucleation may be homogenous or heterogeneous in nature. Heterogeneous nucleation involves the surface of a substance, such as a particle of dust or container wall, which acts as the central location for the orientation of atoms, molecules or ions. The process of homogenous nucleation is much less formal. During this transition, several particles move into their correct positions through random movements. Of the two, heterogeneous nucleation is more common. However, homogenous nucleation is necessitated when the extent of super saturation or super cooling increases. The substances created by nucleation vary widely in color, shape and physical structure. Some may crystallize under stable and predictable conditions, while others undergo transformations in chaotic and volatile environments. Glycerol is one end product of nucleation; this component, like others formed in stable conditions, is prone to super cooling.

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