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In the Czochralski method a LiF seed crystal of known orientation is dipped into molten LiF and slowly drawn out, allowing the melt to crystallize on it.
Based upon a Russian technique pioneered by Natalia Zaitseva, who now works at Livermore, the laboratory's improved rapid-growth process begins with a synthetic, thumbnail-sized seed crystal placed inside a six-foot-high tank filled with nearly a metric ton of supersaturated KDP solution at 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Careful control of the pressures and temperatures allows carbon atoms from the powder to migrate through the molten catalyst and deposit themselves on the seed crystal much as rock candy grows from a sugar solution.
Manufacturers typically grow a large crystal by condensing hot silicon-carbide vapor onto one face of a seed crystal.
Marangoni says the team may have glimpsed a type of seed crystal that the motions of food processing just happen to produce.
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