Light scattering and optical diffusion from willemite spherulites

Kevin M. Knowles, Haider Butt, Afif Batal, Aydin Sabouri, Carl J. Anthony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Willemite is a zinc silicate mineral used in modern day pottery as a decorative feature within glazes. It is produced by controlled heat treatment of zinc oxide-containing ceramic glazes. The heat-treated glazes devitrify, producing thin nanoscale needle-like willemite crystals growing in spherulitic morphologies through branching of the needles. We show here that this resulting morphology of willemite crystals in an inorganic glass matrix has a previously unreported strong interaction with light, displaying remarkable optical diffraction patterns. Thin sections of such spherulites act as optical diffusers, enabling light beams to be spread up to 160° in width. Analysis of the interaction between the willemite spherulites and light suggests that the high density of willemite crystals in the spherulites and the length scales associated with both the thickness of the needles and the spacings between branches are together responsible for this optical diffusion behaviour.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalOptical Materials
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Diffraction
  • Diffusers
  • Light scattering
  • Nanoscale spacings
  • Willemite


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