, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 459-471

Bragg diffraction of light in synthetic opals

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Three-dimensional light diffraction from the crystal structure, formed by closely packed a-SiO2 spheres of submicron size, of samples of synthetic opals was visualized. The diffraction pattern of a monochromatic light beam was established to consist of a series of strong maxima whose number and angular position depend on the wavelength and mutual orientation of the incident beam and the crystallographic planes of the sample. The diffraction patterns were studied under oblique incidence on the (111) growth surface of the sample and with light propagated in the (111) plane in various directions perpendicular to the sample growth axis. The spectral and angular relations of diffracted intensity were studied in considerable detail in both scattering geometries. The experimental data are interpreted in terms of a model according to which the major contribution to the observed patterns is due to Bragg diffraction of light from (111)-type closely packed layers of the face-centered cubic opal lattice. The model takes into account the disorder in the alternation of the (111) layers along the sample growth axis; this disorder gives rise, in particular, to twinning of the fcc opal lattice.