Quasicrystals are somewhat paradoxical structures which exhibit many amazing properties distinguishing them from ordinary crystals. Although the atoms are not localized at periodic positions, quasicrystals posses perfect long-range order. Until the early 1980s it was unanimously established that ordered matter is always periodic. Accordingly, the rotational symmetry in real space was thought to be limited to n=2,3,4 and 6. However more than a hundred complex metal alloys, for instance the discretely diffracting icosahedral AlPdMn or decagonal AlNiCo, have defied these crystallographic rules and self-organized into quasicrystals. Although the majority of the identified quasicrystals are complex metal alloys synthesized in the laboratory, recent experimental results proved that quasiperiodic order is not limited to metals. Matter also organizes itself aperiodically at larger length scales where thermal fluctuations play an important role. Recent experiments have shown that quasiperiodic order is also oberved in soft matter systems, such as micellars, polymers, and binary nanoparticles. Quasicrystals show many interesting properties which are quite different from that of periodic crystals. Accordingly, they are considered as materials with high technological potential e.g. as surface coatings, thermal barriers, catalysts or photonic materials.
Quasicrystalline structures have been theoretically predicted also in systems with a single type of particles. Nevertheless, experimentally their spontaneous formation has been only observed in binary, ternary or even more complex alloys. Accordingly, their surfaces exhibit a high degree of structural and chemical complexity and show intriguing properties. In order to understand the origin of those characteristics it would be helpful to disentangle structural and chemical aspects which can be achieved by growing single-element monolayers to quasicrystalline surfaces. Apart from understanding how quasicrystalline properties can be transferred to such monolayers, this approach might allow fabrication of materials with novel properties. First heteroepitatic growth experiments on decagonal and icosahedral surfaces indeed demonstrate the formation of Pb, Bi and Sb monolayers with a high degree of quasicrystalline order as determined by low-energy electron diffraction and elastic helium atom scattering experiments. Compared to reciprocal space studies, only recently atomically resolved scanning tunneling microscopy investigations of the adsorbate morphology became possible. Even then, however, it is difficult to relate the structure of the adsorbate to that of the underlying substrate.
In that respect, the study of the phase behaviour of colloidal particles interacting with quasiperiodic laser fields can throw new light on fundamental problems of broad interest in the physics of quasicrystals and in condensed matter physics. In fact colloidal systems are meanwhile established as excellent model for atomic systems and colloidal physics have demonstrated that such systems can give answers to many basic physics questions. Depending on the pair-interaction and the concentration, colloidal systems show analogues of all the states of atomic systems: gas, liquid and solid states. The mesoscopic size (nm-µm), the time scales (ms-s) and the tunability of the pair interaction in colloidal systems make them a convenient model system for experimental and theoretical studies. As a consequence, real space analysis by means of video microscopy allows tracking the trajectories of the individual particles and makes the time evolution of the system accessible in detail. Such information is inaccessible in systems investigated by diffraction experiments, as the scattering information is available only averaged over the scattering area. Because in a colloidal system there is direct access to real space information, the strength and nature of the different interactions, the origins of the complex phase behavior could be in different examples identified. In conclusion, the study of the rich phase behavior of colloidal suspensions provides ideal conditions for experimental and theoretical studies.
In this Thesis, we report on a real-space investigation of the phase behaviour of charged colloidal monolayers interacting with quasicrystalline decagonal or tetradecagonal substrates created by interfering five or seven laser beams. Different starting configurations, such as dense fluid and triangular crystals with different densities, are prepared. At low intensities and high particle densities, the electrostatic colloidal repulsion dominates over the colloid-substrate interaction and the crystalline structure remains mainly intact. As expected, at very high intensities the colloid-substrate interaction dominates and a quasiperiodic ordering is observed. Interestingly, at intermediate intensities we observe the alignment of crystalline domains along the 5 directions of the quasicrystalline substrate. This is in agreement with observations of Xenon atoms adsorbed on the ten-fold decagonal Al-Ni-Co surface and numerical simulations of weakly adsorbed atomic systems. Intermediate phases are observed for colloid-substrate interactions strong enough to produce defects in the crystal. These defects adapt the form of rows of quadratic tiles. Surprisingly, for specific particle densities (at which the colloid-substrate interaction is minimized) we identify a novel pseudomorphic ordering. This intermediate phase which exhibits likewise crystalline and quasicrystalline structural properties can be described by an Archimedean-like tiling consisting of alternating rows of quadratic and triangular tiles. The calculated diffraction pattern of this phase is in agreement with recent observations of copper adsorbed on icosahedral AlPdMn surfaces. Interestingly, we also observe the formation of the same phase on tetradecagonal substrates also at densities for which the potential energy of the colloidal system is minimized. Although the structure can also be described by rows of triangles and rows of squares, a closer analysis reveals substantial differences. Here, large domains with almost periodic ordering are found. We show that this behavior is closely related to the low density of highly symmetric local motifs in the substrate potential.
In the second part of this Thesis the conditions under which quasicrystals form are investigated. Currently, it is not clear why most quasicrystals hold 5- or 10-fold symmetry but no single example with 7 or 9-fold symmetry has ever been observed. Since the properties of quasicrystals are strongly connected to their atomic structure, a better understanding of their growth mechanisms is of great importance. In contrast to crystals which are periodic in all three dimensions, quasiperiodicity is always (except for icosahedral quasicrystals) restricted to two dimensions. Accordingly, three-dimensional quasicrystals are comprised of a periodic stacking of quasiperiodic layers and any hurdle in the formation of quasiperiodic order within a single layer will eventually prohibit their growth along the periodic direction. In this Thesis, we also report on geometrical constraints which impede the formation of quasicrystals with certain symmetries in a colloidal model system. This is achieved by subjecting a colloidal monolayer to N=5- and 7-beam quasiperiodic potential landscapes. Our results clearly demonstrate that quasicrystalline order is much easier established for N = 5 compared to N = 7. With increasing laser intensity we observe that the colloids first adopt quasiperiodic order at local areas which then laterally grow until an extended quasicrystalline layer forms. As nucleation sites where quasiperiodicity originates, we identify highly symmetric motifs in the laser pattern. We find that their density strongly varies with n and surprisingly is smallest exactly for those quasicrystalline symmetries which have never been observed in atomic systems. Since such high symmetry motifs also exist in atomic quasicrystals where they act as preferential adsorption sites, this suggests that it is indeed the deficiency of such motifs which accounts for the absence of e.g. materials with 7-fold symmetry.
In addition to the fundamental aspects, we report in this Thesis on the fabrication of large colloidal quasiperiodic layers incorporated in a polymer hydrogel matrix. Because quasicrystals have higher point group symmetry than ordinary crystals, micrometer-scale quasicrystalline materials are expected to exhibit large and isotropic photonic bandgaps in the visible range. In our case, the quasiperiodic symmetries are induced using extended light fields. The reported gelled colloidal quasicrystals are unique in that they have large sizes as well as good optical uniformity. With laser diffraction the in situ variable length scale of such materials is demonstrated.
In conclusion, we have studied the phase behavior of charged colloidal particles interacting with quasiperiodic laser fields. We showed that novel pseudomorphic growth can lead to the formation of a phase which exhibits likewise crystalline and quasicrystalline structural properties. We also performed unconventional measurements in order to understand why the formation of quasicrystals is limited to specific rotational symmetries. We have found that geometrical hurdles play a crucial role in the proliferation of quasiperiodicity and that such hurdles can hindered or even prohibited the formation of e.g. 7- or 9-fold symmetry. And finally, we have shown that the combination of extended light fields and hydrogel matrices leads to the formation of large quasiperiodically ordered colloidal materials.