Recent theoretical predictions indicate that melting of a two-dimensional solid may be caused by spontaneous creation of dislocations. The theory predicts that melting occurs by a two-step process involving an intermediate phase, called the hexatic phase, in which there is order in the local crystalline axes but not in the positions of atoms. These ideas are being tested by numerical simulations and by experiments on electrons on liquid helium, liquid crystal films, and rare gas layers adsorbed on graphite. Experiments on liquid crystal films indicate that the three-dimensional analog of the hexatic phase exists, and xenon on graphite exhibits a melting transition close to the form predicted.
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