Dude, where my atoms at?

Supporting Image
Supporting Image
Crystal diffraction
by Xiaoshan Xu, Sara Callori

Have you ever wondered why some materials are hard and others soft, some conduct heat or electricity easily while others don't, some are transparent to light while others are opaque . . . and on and on and on? The material universe is vast and diverse, and while a material's properties depend in part on the elements it is made from, its structure—how it is built from its constituent atoms—can also have wide-ranging effects on how it looks, feels, and behaves. Diffraction is a method that allows us to "see" the atomic structure of materials. Read on to find out how it works!

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