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A solid look at xenon.

Normally it takes a very low temperature or a high pressure to solidify an inert gas like argon or xenon. This constraint, however, can be overcome by using a beam of inert-gas ions to irradiate an aluminum film. The resulting film contains small "bubbles" of solid xenon or argon trapped in an aluminum matrix. In this form, rare gas solids can be studied using high-resolution electron microscopy, as reported in the Dec. 13 SCIENCE.

The technique makes it possible to detect and measure lattice characteristics of individual bubbles less than 8 nanometers across, say Stephen E. Donnelly and Christopher J. Rossouw of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Clayton, Australia. Information about crystal defects within the bubbles themselves also becomes available.

An analysis of 130 solid xenon bubbles revealed that, in general, the tiny embedded crystals are faceted but often irregular in shape. A number of images hint that the crystals look somewhat like truncated octahedra. Many bubbles show a high degree of crystalline perfection.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 14, 1985
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