Crystals online and in the world

11 August 2014

Crystallography is close to the hearts of many in our community, and one of AIP's Member Societies, the American Crystallographic Association (ACA), is devoted to this field, which lies at the crossroads of chemistry, medicine, materials science, and manufacturing. 

This year is a special year for crystallography, and the United Nations declared 2014 the "International Year of Crystallography" (IYCr2014) to recognize its importance to technology, modern society, and humanity. One cornerstone of this yearlong celebration was the 23rd Congress and General Assembly of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), a major international meeting that concluded yesterday in Montreal. IUCr is an Affiliated Society of AIP. This year, AIP staff in the News and Media Services Division worked for the first time with the National Research Council in Canada to promote research at IUCr.

One highlight of the IUCr meeting was a "Newswise Live Event," which took place Thursday, August 7. During this event, journalists joined Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman and a distinguished panel of crystallography experts for a virtual, face-to-face discussion streamed live from Room 445 of the Palais des Congrès de Montréal. Presentations included:

- Dan Shechtman, who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals, started the press conference with a brief history of crystallography from ancient times to its importance in the world today. Shechtman is a professor of materials science and engineering at Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, Israel and at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

- Michele Zema, project manager for the International Year of Crystallography at the IUCr and lecturer at the University of Pavia, Italy, discussed many of the UN activities that have taken place in 2014 during this yearlong celebration, including efforts to establish laboratories in developing countries around the world.

- Alessia Bacchi, a professor at the University of Parma, detailed a new approach for taking the active chemical ingredients of common drugs and agricultural products, many of which are liquids, and stabilizing them with other molecules into "co-crystals," essentially rendering them solid. It holds broad potential to make such products more durable, safer, cheaper, easier to manufacture, and less harmful to the environment. Read more on this topic.

- Tomislav Friščić of McGill University described some of his unconventional approaches to chemical synthesis and mineral processing based on solid-state chemistry and how they promise better, safer, and far less expensive methods for extracting metals from mineral ores, as well as for the scalable synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs. Read more on this topic.

- Juan Manuel García-Ruiz, a professor at the Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra, CSIC-Universidad de Granada, discussed giant gypsum crystals, how they are formed and what they are teaching us. The subject of a new documentary titled “The Mystery of the Giant Crystals,” featuring García-Ruiz, these crystals are renowned for their spectacular beauty. Some in excess of 30 feet long and more than half a million years old, they are found deep within the Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico, and at sites around the world, such as Segóbriga and Pulpí in Spain, and the El Teniente Mine in Chile. Read more on this topic.