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ILL supports the International Year of Crystallography

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IYCr 2014: ILL supports the International Year of Crystallography

What is the link between medieval Islamic architecture, the Curiosity mission to Mars, the structure of membrane proteins, or the glaze on the Mona Lisa? Crystallography of course!

Crystallography is a multidisciplinary science focusing on the structure of matter at atomic and molecular scales. Using highly powerful state-of-the-art techniques - with X-rays and our neutrons in particular - crystallographers explore materials and living tissue. To highlight the importance of this science, the United Nations saw fit to designate 2014 the "International Year of Crystallography".

 Grenoble is one of the most important French centres of research and development in this domain, and the region can be proud of its concentration of highly sophisticated installations used for crystallographic research… with the ILL and ESRF at their head.

On 21 and 22 January the International Year was launched with ceremony at Unesco's headquarters in Paris, with the gathering of a thousand scientists from all fields of science, including many members of Grenoble's "100 years of crystallography" collective.

Jean-Louis Hodeau of the CNRS heads the collective and had installed the "Journey into the heart of the crystal" exhibition created in Grenoble. The exhibition is now a reference in the subject and has been translated into several languages. It will tour the world, through the "Open labs" to be organised from 2014 on, in Africa, South and Central America, and Southern Asia. The aim of these labs is to boost the development of new centres of crystallography research in countries where the science has yet to take off.

ILL was strongly represented in Paris, in the persons of Helmut Schober, Charles Simon, and Marie-Teresa Fernandez-Díaz, who chairs the International Crystallography Union's Commission on neutron scattering. Alain Filhol was also there, to present the development of his new interactive application for teaching the principles of diffraction. And there were students from Grenoble, come to demonstrate the interactive "LED cube" they are developing, to simulate different crystalline structures in 3-D.

Besides these, there are quite a few other pedagogical projects in the pipeline for the International Year, so we'll doubtless be talking about Grenoble crystallography over the next few months.