The Collaborative International Dictionary
Spherulite \Spher"u*lite\, n. [Cf. F. sph['e]rulite.] (Min.) A minute spherical crystalline body having a radiated structure, observed in some vitreous volcanic rocks, as obsidian and pearlstone.
n. a minute spherical crystalline body having a radiated structure, observed in some vitreous volcanic rocks, as obsidian and pearlstone.
In petrology, spherulites are small, rounded bodies that commonly occur in vitreous igneous rocks. They are often visible in specimens of obsidian, pitchstone and rhyolite as globules about the size of millet seed or rice grain, with a duller luster than the surrounding glassy base of the rock, and when they are examined with a lens they prove to have a radiate fibrous structure.
In polymer physics, spherulites (from Greek sphaira = ball and lithos = stone) are spherical semicrystalline regions inside non- branched linear polymers. Their formation is associated with crystallization of polymers from the melt and is controlled by several parameters such as the number of nucleation sites, structure of the polymer molecules, cooling rate, etc. Depending on those parameters, spherulite diameter may vary in a wide range from a few micrometers to millimeters. Spherulites are composed of highly ordered lamellae, which result in higher density, hardness, but also brittleness of the spherulites as compared to disordered polymer. The lamellae are connected by amorphous regions which provide certain elasticity and impact resistance. Alignment of the polymer molecules within the lamellae results in birefringence producing a variety of colored patterns, including Maltese cross, when spherulites are viewed between crossed polarizers in an optical microscope.