A major research effort concerns the crystal growth - centimeter size - of multi-functional inorganic materials. A Physics Today article (Aug. 2007, Vol. 60, pp. 26-28) and a recent National Academy of Sciences Report http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12640.html stated clearly that the United States is in danger of becoming a second- or even third-class citizen when it comes to the growth and availability of single crystals of advanced materials. It is not uncommon for material scientists and physicists to go overseas, i.e. hat in hand, to acquire samples for their research. Polycrystalline samples are often available, but these samples have their drawbacks. The crystal structure may not be determined accurately, grain boundaries may impact the physical property measurements, and impurities could be in the sample. With high quality single crystals, these problems are eliminated. Simply put, advanced characterization of single crystals provides a greater depth in understanding materials properties. It is this understanding that is a required step in elucidating structure-property relationships and ultimately providing an avenue for rational materials design. All of this, however, is predicated on the growth of high quality large single crystals.
We use a variety of methods to grow large crystals. These include
Short movie of crystal growth in action: