Crystallography is a powerful technique that can be used to look inside materials and generate a three-dimensional picture of the arrangement of atoms and molecules inside a crystal. Why do we want to do this? Because to understand how things work we often need to know how the atoms and molecules are connected. We can use this technique to look at things from simple ionic materials like table salt all the way through to the complex molecules that are found in your body such as proteins, viruses and your DNA! Crystallography is used by scientists in all scientific disciples including Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Space Science! On these pages you can find out more about some of these areas.
The discovery of X-ray diffraction by the father and son team, William and Lawrence Bragg (with some help from others such as Max von Laue) 100 years ago revolutionised the scientific world allowing scientists to unambiguously visualise the arrangement of atoms and molecules. You can find out more about the history of Crystallography here. At the outset of their research, the Braggs could never have anticipated the impact that it would have even today! There have been nearly 30 Nobel Prizes awarded which have made use of Crystallography awarded in Physics, Chemistry and Biology! You can find out more about these here.
Have you ever wondered…
Why chocolate goes off? Why things taste sweet? Find out more here!
What makes humans different from other animals (DNA)? How the proteins in your body work? How do viruses function and how might we stop them from working? Find out the answers to these questions and other questions about how your body works here.
How we can make batteries lighter and smaller? Or how we can store more tunes on an ipod? Find out more about how Crystallography has helped to design better devices here.
What the difference is between cheap and expensive paracetamol? How the pharmaceutical industry try to make more effective medicines? Why some medicines go bad? Find out more about the use of Crystallography in medicines here.
What happens when you grow crystals in space? How we can use Crystallography to understand the materials on the surface of Mars? How Crystallography can be used to look for water on Mars? More information on Crystallography in Space can be found here.
What happens when we break the rules of crystals? What is a quasicrystal? More information on quasicrystals can be found here.