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Essential Elements

14 15 cryStalS building bigger Crystals are simple repeated patterns of unit cells. Like apples on a market stall, atoms and molecules can grow into large three dimensional solids, the pieces positioned to give the best balance between attractive and repulsive forces. There are seven crystalline systems based on tessellating geometries which, when combined with the four basic unit cell types, give the fourteen Bravais Lattices opposite. Variations in temperature or pressure may change one crystal structure into another which is more comfortable and efficient. Sulphur, for example, transforms from an orthorhombic lattice to monoclinic at 96oC, quickly reverting back on cooling. Ordered in their zillions, these tiny blocks build into many of the solid substances of our world, bridging the vast difference of scale between molecules, minerals and mountains.
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