Crystal growth as an excitable medium
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Crystal growth has been widely studied for many years, and, since the pioneering work of Burton, Cabrera and Frank, spirals and target patterns on the crystal surface have been understood as forms of tangential crystal growth mediated by defects and by twodimensional nucleation. Similar spirals and target patterns are ubiquitous in physical systems describable as excitable media. Here, we demonstrate that this is not merely a superficial resemblance, that the physics of crystal growth can be set within the framework of an excitable medium, and that appreciating this correspondence may prove useful to both fields. Apart from solid crystals, we discuss how our model applies to the biomaterial nacre, formed by layer growth of a biological liquid crystal. This journal is © 2012 The Royal Society.