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Crystalline Structure: Definition, Structure & Bonding

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  • 0:00 What is Crystalline Structure?
  • 1:20 Examples of…
  • 2:40 Bonding in Crystalline…
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marauo Davis

Marauo has taught both chemistry and mathematics in the high school and college setting and has a Ph.D. degree in chemistry.

Have you ever wondered how chemical compounds are held together? Did you know that every material has a specific type of structure and bonding? The way these materials are held together determines how it behaves. Read on to learn more about the crystalline structure.

What Is Crystalline Structure?

A crystalline structure is any structure of ions, molecules, or atoms that are held together in an ordered, three-dimensional arrangement. Crystalline structure is one of two types of structural ordering of atoms, the other being the amorphous structure. The key difference in the crystalline and amorphous structure is the ordering of the structure. Crystalline structure can be thought of as the highest level of order that can exist in a material, while an amorphous structure is irregular and lacks the repeating pattern of a crystal lattice.

Simply, the crystal structure can be thought of as a small box with atoms, molecules, or ions located in specific areas of the box. The atoms within this box represent the smallest group of repeating atoms in the entire molecule. That means each atom found in the small box continues to repeat on and on in the same connectivity throughout the entire compound. The general arrangement and order of the atoms in the structure are directly related to the natural properties of the crystal. The crystalline structure is unique and specific for each material. That is to say, there will be no other compound organized in exactly the same way as any other. Essentially, the crystalline structure is the 'identification marker' for the compound

Examples of Crystalline Structure

The crystalline structure of carbon is an age-old example and illustration of how the arrangement of atoms defines the properties of a crystal. Carbon may exist in one of three forms, and each form is significantly different due to its crystal structure. For instance, diamond and the lead used in a pencil are two completely different types of carbon. There is a third type, which will not be discussed here, that is yet different than these two.

The point is that each of these three forms of carbon all possess different properties due to their crystalline structure and arrangement of atoms. To that point, the order of the atoms within the crystal structure will determine the way the material behaves. The size of the crystal structure is defined by the size of the atoms, ions, or molecules in the structure. For example, smaller atoms suggest a smaller structure while larger atoms suggest a larger structure. As mentioned before, this arrangement will determine the materials' properties.

Take, for example, a classroom of a fixed size. If there are very few students in the room, there will be greater space for each student. Conversely, if more students are placed in the same space, there will certainly be less space for each student. In addition to that fact, one might imagine that if there are more students in the room, the potential for more to happen is greater.

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