"Crystallization is one of the most fundamental nonequilibrium phenomena universal to a variety of materials. It has so far been assumed that a supercooled liquid is in a “homogeneous disordered state” before crystallization. Contrary to this common belief, we reveal that a supercooled colloidal liquid is actually not homogeneous, but has transient medium-range structural order. We find that nucleation preferentially takes place in regions of high structural order via wetting effects, which reduce the crystal–liquid interfacial energy significantly and thus promotes crystal nucleation. This novel scenario provides a clue to solving a long-standing mystery concerning a large discrepancy between the rigorous numerical estimation of the nucleation rate on the basis of the classical nucleation theory and the experimentally observed ones. Our finding may shed light not only on the mechanism of crystal nucleation, but also on the fundamental nature of a supercooled liquid state."
Science Formation of a crystal nucleus from liquid: