Luminescence labeling and dynamics of growth active crystal surface structures
Bullard, Theresa Vivian
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One aspect of the multifaceted proposal by A. G. Cairns-Smith (CS), that imperfect crystals have the capacity to act as primitive genes by transferring the disposition of their imperfections from one crystal to another, is investigated. An experiment was designed in a model crystalline system unrelated to the composition of the pre-biotic earth but suited to a well-defined test. Plates of potassium hydrogen phthalate were studied in order to ascertain whether, according to CS, parallel screw dislocations could serve as an information store with cores akin to punches in an old computer card. Evidence of screw dislocations was obtained from their associated growth hillocks through differential interference contrast microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and luminescence labeling of hillocks in conjunction with confocal laser scanning microscopy. Inheritance was evaluated by the corresponding patterns of luminescence developed in 'daughter' crystals grown from seed in the presence of fluorophores. The dispositions and evolution of growth active hillock patterns were quantified by fractal correlation analysis and statistical analysis. Along the way, we came to realize that transferring information encoded in the disposition of screw dislocations is complicated by several factors that lead to 'mutations' in the information stored in the pattern of defects. These observations forced us to confront the fundamental mechanisms that give rise to screw dislocations. It became clear that inter-hillock correlations play a significant role in the appearance of new dislocations through growth, and cause the overall pattern of hillocks to be non-random. Tendencies for clustering and correlations along various crystallographic directions were observed. Investigations into the dye-crystal surface chemistries and interactions with hillock steps also ensued through a combination of experimental techniques and force-field calculations. It was established that certain dye molecules not only recognize some propagating steps as opposed to others, but preferentially choose between kinks propagating in opposing directions on the same step. Beyond providing the first experimental test of the CS proposal, this work is aimed at understanding the nucleation, evolution, and impurity interactions of growth-induced screw dislocations, a necessary ingredient for the growth of crystals at low supersaturation.
- Physics