In crystallography, crystal structure is a description of the ordered arrangement of atoms, ions or molecules in a crystalline material. Ordered structures occur from the intrinsic nature of the constituent particles to form symmetric patterns that repeat along the principal directions of three-dimensional space in matter.
The smallest group of particles in the material that constitutes the repeating pattern is the unit cell of the structure. The unit cell completely defines the symmetry and structure of the entire crystal lattice, which is built up by repetitive translation of the unit cell along its principal axes. The repeating patterns are said to be located at the points of the Bravais lattice.
The lengths of the principal axes, or edges, of the unit cell and the angles between them are the lattice constants, also called lattice parameters. The symmetry properties of the crystal are described by the concept of space groups. All possible symmetric arrangements of particles in three-dimensional space may be described by the 230 space groups.
The crystal structure and symmetry play a critical role in determining many physical properties, such as cleavage, electronic band structure, and optical transparency.