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Department of Chemistry

New Nordic X-ray facility

Following a grant from the National Committee for Research Infrastructures (NUFI) of DKK 25 million, an Aarhus research group headed by Professor Bo Brummerstedt can now study defects and disorder in crystals in a completely new way. This is using the DanMAX beamline at Lund, which, with its intense radiation can reveal the tiniest details inside materials that very often determine their properties.

[Translate to English:] MAX IV i Lund er et af de nyeste skud på det teknologiske stamtræ. På basis af en bevilling fra Puljen til Forskningsinfrastruktur kan en AU-ledet forskningsgruppe nu opføre et nyt instrument, der skal finde ekstremt små, men meget værdifulde, fejl i mate
[Translate to English:] MAX IV i Lund er et af de nyeste skud på det teknologiske stamtræ. På basis af en bevilling fra Puljen til Forskningsinfrastruktur kan en AU-ledet forskningsgruppe nu opføre et nyt instrument, der skal finde ekstremt små, men meget værdifulde, fejl i materialer. (Pressefoto: Perry Nordeng, Lunds Universitet)

Defects and imperfections surround us. Some imperfections are highly sought-after, for example people flock to Paris to see the crooked smile on the Mona Lisa's mouth. Another. A much smaller example is the imperfections that make rubies red and sapphires blue. The beautiful colours stem from the tiniest flaws in the crystal structure inside the stones, and we have not been able to identify these until recent times.

While untold numbers of art researchers have worked to unravel the mysteries of the Mona Lisa, the secrets of gemstones have been hidden from materials researchers because they have not had the technology to look deeply into the structure of the crystals. Now they have, with a technology that is not much older than the cars on the road today.

We know that defects and disorder in the structure of crystals are what give materials their much-coveted properties, for example converting heat into power or being magnetic. We also know that these crystal flaws are extremely difficult to identify at a relevant scale, and we have hit a wall because we simply have not had the technology in Scandinavia. Until now.

The new branch on the tree

One of the latest young branches on the family tree of technology is MAX IV. It is an enormous construction built in Lund, where a Danish-led research group can now establish the first Scandinavian beamline for so-called single-crystal diffraction. This technique makes it possible to carry out complex analyses of a single crystal of a given material, because the crystal is very precisely oriented in relation to the X-ray beam, and this provides 3D information about its inner structure.

MAX IV is one of the most intense synchrotron facilities in the world, and the DanMAX Beamline is being built by Aarhus University, the Technical University of Denmark, and the University of Copenhagen. The project is called Sincrys, and it will install a new instrument on DanMAX to open up entirely new research possibilities for both universities and industry in the Nordic region. It also marks the establishment of a research consortium with 79 independent research groups from 18 Nordic institutions.

"The new instrument will provide unprecedented opportunities, as Sincrys will enable us to analyse microcrystals via its connection to the intense MAX IV. Information about the atomic structure of materials is obtained by means of a technique called single-crystal X-ray diffraction. This information is a cornerstone of modern natural science, but the crystals researchers can produce are often too small to use the technique. Sincrys can manage crystals a million times smaller than standard laboratories can, and the instrument is open to partners within both academia and industry," explains Bo Brummerstedt.

From a telescope to a microscope

In terms of research, the project promises exciting new insight, for example because it will be possible to carry out measurements of the diffuse X-rays from a single crystal. This is where we return to the extremely small, but valuable defects that determine the properties of materials. If we can understand and even design defects in crystals, we will have a vital contribution in the long term to developing new energy technologies in the green transition, for example, or to designing new pharmaceutical substances.

"Roughly speaking, this is like going from a telescope to an electron microscope, and Sincrys will enable science to observe the very weak diffuse dispersion and specifically measure the defects in individual crystals. This is where I'm particularly looking forward to seeing what new and deep discoveries emerge from this new piece of research infrastructure," says Bo Brummerstedt.

The project has been made possible by a grant from the Pool for Research Infrastructures under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. The grant is worth DKK 25 million, and it is part of the Danish Roadmap for Research Infrastructures 2020.

Read more about the Pool and the grant for this and other projects here.

Contact:
Professor Bo Brummerstedt,
Department of Chemistry
Aarhus University,
Tel.: +45 27782887
Mail: bo@chem.au.dk