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Edmarc Arnigo, Adrian Gabriel Ambagan*, Verge Cudia Baccay*, Mark John Vincent Merida

Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering – Department of Civil Engineering

*Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering – Department of Agricultural and Biosystems
ENSC 18 V 2L


A crystal structure is the arrangement of atoms repeated three-dimensional lattice. Lattice refers to
the arrangement in space of isolated points in a regular pattern, showing the positions of atoms,
molecules, or ions in the structure of a crystal. Closely-packed crystals are formed by pure and solid
metals because they adopt the smallest possible volume. The body- centered cubic (BCC), face-
centered cubic (FCC), and hexagonal close- packed (HCP) are the three most common crystal
structures of metal. They are analyzed through the smallest group of structure called the unit cell.
In this exercise, the three structures are simulated to analyze and observe their and their respective
characteristics by making models out of toothpicks and polystyrene foam balls. Also included is the
illustration of how dense FCC and HCP compared to BCC, which then reveals that HCP structure
is the densest among the three. For better and faster results, it is recommended to perform the
experiment with a sufficient number of well-functioning materials.

1.0 INTRODUCTION body-centered cubic (BCC), and hexagonal close-

packed (HCP).
An incremental part in the study of materials it to have
a better understanding of the atomical structure of the This exercise primarily aimed to identify and describe
atoms and ions, its regularity and arrangement, with the basic crystal structures that metals form. It also
respect to one another. The properties exhibited by aids in describing a unit cell and its related features
different materials are greatly dependent in the manner and properties. Further, it also aimed to provide
by which their atoms, ions, or molecules are spatially knowledge on the characteristics of crystal structures.
In this exercise, these three simple crystal structures
When the atoms are situated in a repeating array over will be described through a specific representations or
and over, they are known to be crystalline materials. models that will be created.
That is, to have those long-range orders to exist, the
atoms will have to position themselves in a repetitive 2.0 EXPERIMENTAL SECTION
three-dimensional pattern with its nearest-neighbor
This exercise used 16 pieces of rounded toothpicks
atoms upon solidification. All metals, many ceramic
and 26 pieces of 1.5 inches polystyrene foam balls to
materials, and certain polymers form crystalline
illustrate and analyze the basic crystal structure of
structures under normal solidification conditions. For
those that do not crystallize, this long-range atomic
order is absent; these are considered noncrystalline or 2.1 Construction of the first packing model
amorphous materials (Askeland, 2011).
The first crystal structure used twenty-six polystyrene
The three simple common crystal structures that are foam balls, which represented the atoms, to construct
usually found in metals are face-centered cubic (FCC), a three-layered packing model. The foam balls were
connected through the rounded toothpicks.
Basic Crystal Structures of Metals
Arnigo, Ambagan, Baccay, Merida

2.1.1 Formation of the three layers

Two set of triangles with a base of four balls were

created from twenty 1.5 inches polystyrene foam ball,
ten polystyrene foam balls for each triangle. These
triangles served as the first and third layer of the
packing model.

The second layer of the packing model was

constructed using the remaining six polystyrene balls.

2.1.2 Arranging the constructed layers Figure 2. Misaligned top and bottom layer

To complete the packing model the layers were 2.3 Construction of the second packing model
stacked together, such that the smaller triangle fit on
the space formed by the ball arrangement of the first Using nine polystyrene foam balls and several
layer. toothpicks, a square arrangement was created, having
three balls on each side. Two sets of this ball
Then the third layer of ball arrangement was arrangement were made. These served as the first and
positioned in a way that the polystyrene balls are third layer of the packing model.
aligned to the polystyrene balls of the first layer and
this packing arrangement. And the basic crystal A smaller square was made using four balls, and
structure was identified (see Figure 1). served as the second layer

2.3.1 Arranging the constructed layers

To complete the packing model, the layers were

stacked together such that the second layer nested in
the hollows of the layer underneath it. Then the third
layer was placed such that the balls were aligned
directly above with those on the first layer. Then
crystal structure was identified (see Figure 3).

Figure 1. A three-layered packing model with a

triangular base.

2.2 Repositioning the uppermost layer

The third layer was repositioned such that the

polystyrene balls are misaligned with those of the first
layer. Then the packing crystal structure was identified
(see Figure 2).
Figure 3. A three-layered packing model with a
square base.

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Engineering Science18
September 1, 2017
Basic Crystal Structures of Metals
Arnigo, Ambagan, Baccay, Merida

3.0 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 3.4 The Density of Crystal Structure

3.1 The Hexagonal Close-Packed Crystal Structure The theoretical density can be can be solved using the
The polystyrene foam balls and toothpicks were used 𝑛𝐴
as the materials in creating the layers for the packing 𝜌=
model. Triangle and square layers were created and Where
arranged to form the different basic types of crystal n = number of equivalent atoms in the unit
structure. The first arrangement consisted of the cell
triangle layers with the larger triangles used as the top A = atomic weight (g/mol)
and bottom layers and the smaller triangle as the Vc= volume of the unit cell
middle layer; the top layer was aligned to the bottom NA = Avogadro’s number
(6.023 x 1023 atoms/mol)
layer. This arrangement produced a Hexagonal Close-
Packed(HCP) crystal structure as shown in Figure 1.
The unit cell of this structure is shaped as a regular To identify which packing arrangement is the densest,
hexagon prism and is composed by six atoms. we can use the given formula above. As shown in the
equation, the density is directly proportional to the
3.2 The Face-Centered Cubic Crystal Structure
number of atoms in the unit cell. So, we can say that
The second arrangement also used the same set of the BCC crystal structure has the least density among
triangle layers. The bottom and middle layers were the basic crystal structure.
still positioned like in the previous arrangement, but
3.4.1 Comparison of FCC and HCP Densities
the top layer was repositioned so that the foam balls in
the top and bottom layers were not aligned. This Knowing that FCC and HCP crystal structures have
arrangement resulted into a Face-Centered different number of atoms in a unit cell, which are 4
Cubic(FCC) crystal structure as shown in Figure 2. A and 6 respectively, we might assume that HCP has the
unit cell of this structure contains four atoms; each densest packing arrangement since it has the greatest
corner of the cube has ¼ of atom and the faces of the number of atoms for every unit cell. However, the
cube contributes ½ of atom. volumes of their unit cell are different; FCC has a
cubic unit cell while HCP has a regular hexagon prism
The main difference between the first two packing
for its unit cell. Their densities can be compared using
arrangements is their stacking sequence. In the HCP,
the equation for the density and assuming that they
the structure has only two types of layer that gives an
have equal atomic weight.
ABAB arrangement. On the other hand, the FCC
structure has three types of layers which produces an For FCC crystal structure, let a be the length of a side
ABCABC arrangement. Using the same set of layers of the cube and R be the radius of an atom.
does not necessarily mean that similar structures will
be produced. A slight change in the orientation of a 4𝑅
layer created a different packing arrangement. √2

3.3 The Body-Centered Cubic Crystal Structure 𝑉𝑐 = 𝑎3 = 16𝑅3 √2

In the last structure, the set of square layers were used. Let A/NA be a constant C:
The larger squares were placed as the top and bottom
layers while the smaller square for the middle layer. 4𝐶
The layers were placed on top of each other such that 16𝑅3 √2
the foam balls occupy the hollows formed on each
layer resulting to a Body-Centered Cubic(BCC) 𝜌=
crystal structure as shown in Figure 3. This crystal 4𝑅3 √2
structure has two atoms in every unit cell.

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Engineering Science18
September 1, 2017
Basic Crystal Structures of Metals
Arnigo, Ambagan, Baccay, Merida

For HCP crystal structure, let a be the side of the An estimation of the size of an interstitial atom which
hexagonal bases while h be the height of the prism. would fit in each structure is shown below:

𝑎 = 2𝑅 Face Centered Cubic (FCC)

2 a. Tetrahedral
ℎ = 4𝑅√
a = 2R+2r
Solving for the area of the regular hexagon,
4𝑅⁄ = 2R + 2r
1 √2
𝐴𝑟𝑒𝑎 = 6 [ (2𝑅)(𝑅√3)] = 6𝑅2 √3
r = 0.412R
𝑉𝑐 = (𝐴𝑟𝑒𝑎)(ℎ) = (6𝑅2 √3) (4𝑅 √ ) b. Octahedral
𝑅2 + (𝑎⁄4)2 = (𝑟 + 𝑅)2
𝑉𝑐 = 24𝑅3 √2
( )
Let A/NA be a constant C: 𝑅 + ( √2 ⁄4)2 = 𝑟 2 + 2rR + R2

24𝑅3 √2 r = 0.2247R
𝐶 Body Centered Cubic (BCC)
4𝑅3 √2
a. Tetrahedral
Therefore, we can say that FCC and HCP structures
have the same density and they have the densest
packing arrangement among the 3 crystal structure. (𝑎⁄2)2 + (𝑎⁄4)2 = (𝑟 + 𝑅)2
4𝑅 2 4𝑅 2
3.5 Atom Size that Would Fit in Interstitial Spaces
( √3 ) + ( √3 ) = (𝑟 + 𝑅)2
2 4
With the formation of the different crystal structures,
interstitial spaces are formed between atoms. There
are two types of holes in which interstitial spaces can 4𝑅2⁄ + 𝑅2⁄ = 𝑟 2 + 2rR + R2
fill: holes formed between tetrahedral coordination 3 3
geometry of atoms and holes formed between
octahedral coordination geometry of atoms. For a −2𝑅2⁄ + 2rR + 𝑅2 = 0
tetrahedral hole, an interstitial atom can be inserted to r = 0.2910R
four atoms whilst an interstitial atom can be inserted
to six atoms for octahedral hole.

b. Octahedral

a= 2R+ 2r
4𝑅⁄ = 2R + 2r

Figure 4. Types of interstitial spaces 𝐫 = 𝟎. 𝟏𝟓𝟒𝟕𝐑

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Engineering Science18
September 1, 2017
Basic Crystal Structures of Metals
Arnigo, Ambagan, Baccay, Merida

Hexagonal Closed Pack (HCP)


a. Tetrahedral To perform the experiment efficiently and to obtain

a= 2R + 2r better observations, the group came up with the
4𝑅⁄ = 2r + 2R following recommendations:
𝐫 = 𝟎. 𝟒𝟏𝟐𝐑 • Make sure that the materials to be used
(polystyrene and toothpicks) in the
experiment are free of damage – if not new.
b. Octahedral • Handle the materials used carefully so that
2 other groups from other class can reuse it
𝑅 + (𝑎⁄4) = (𝑟 + 𝑅)2
2 • Provision of more materials would be better
to allow all the groups to experience the
𝑅2 + (√2⁄4) = 𝑟 2 + 2rR + R2 construction of the models all at once.

r = 0.2247R 6.0 REFERENCES

It is noticeable that materials with FCC
structure and materials with HCP has the same size of 1. Askeland, D. 2011. The Science and
interstitial atom. Engineering of Materials. USA: Cengage
Learning. pp. 24


The three basic crystal structures were studied with the

use of polystyrene balls and toothpicks. The structures
are the following: Face-Centered Cubic (FCC), Body-
Centered Cubic (BCC), and the Hexagonal Close-Pack

In this exercise, several toothpicks and a specified

number of 1.5-in polystyrene foam balls were obtained
and used to construct packing models of the basic
crystal structures commonly formed by metals. The
various arrangements formed were then described and

Each metal structure was identified and described.

BCC structures were the least dense among the three
crystal structures. This as primarily because of the
number of atoms in its unit cell. On the other hand,
FCC and HCP have equal atomic packing factor.
Knowing the properties of the unit cell of the crystal
structure will make us understand its microstructure.
Examining the microstructure of metals will let us
determine its properties and determine on how to
improve the material.

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