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Education and Outreach Programs

Hoffman Estates High School ESRP 2020

Using X-Ray Diffraction to Catalog the Structures of Complex Crystals


  • Students:
    • Julia Chom
    • Amber Dellacqua
    • Darshan Desai
    • Vanessa Huerta
    • Jagadhish Sathish Kumar
  • Teachers:
    • Wayne Oras
  • Mentors:
    • Binhua Lin (University of Chicago, ChemMatCARS)

Advanced Photon Source Sector 15: ChemMatCARS

The world around us is composed of numerous materials, some of which are crystalline solids. Crystallography is a well-established method developed to assist research-based fields, including chemistry, biology, and materials science. In the past century, improvements in X-ray crystallography have provided images of three-dimensional structures of molecules at the atomic resolution. These images are critical for understanding biological and chemical systems and their resultant mechanisms. For instance, composition and behavior are interlaced in biology; altering one often has an immense effect on the other. Crystals in biology are associated with the development of different protein structures. In biochemistry, this is crucial because it leads to a development in pharmaceutical medicines that can deplete or promote enzyme growth. In microelectronics, defining crystal structure allows for the progression of technology in the field of integrated circuits and flexible display boards. Understanding crystal structures also allows us to differentiate between allotropes. One example of this is looking at the differences in the arrangement of carbon atoms in graphite and diamonds to understand the causes of their ideal properties. X-ray crystallography can be used to figure out different crystal properties from resultant electron density maps, such as bond length and interparticle spacing. Quantitative information derived from the experiment can give way to various chemical, physical, and biological characteristics. Through this, the interactions between the respective particles in the crystals can be determined and a function of the crystal can be cataloged. Comprehending the function of the crystalline solid aids in the development of systems pertaining to specific science and engineering-related fields.

Comparing previously cataloged structures with new equipment can validate known properties and assist in uncovering new characteristics of crystal structures. The crystalline solids we have proposed to study are important to agricultural, electronic, manufacturing, and medical industries. Studying these crystals can lead to new innovations in these fields.

*Note – This school group was unable to complete their project due to the COVID-19 pandemic.