The UK’s national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source, which produces a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun for cutting-edge scientific research, today announced a year of activity to showcase 100 years of crystallography, a technique which is fundamental to the thousands of research experiments carried out at Diamond every year. The programme of events has been organised to celebrate UNESCO’s 2014 International Year of Crystallography and to promote public understanding of this critical scientific field.
At Diamond, crystallography is a key scientific technique which uses the unique pattern of diffraction made when intense X-rays pass through a crystallised sample to determine its atomic structure. The ‘beamlines’ at Diamond Light Source are used by over 3,000 scientists ever year to literally shine a light on a broad range of experiments from DNA, to research into HIV and cancer treatments. Crystallography has fostered countless scientific advances since its discovery and continues to be used by scientists at Diamond Light Source in pioneering research into new forms of energy, archaeology and pioneering drug design.
The United Nations International Year of Crystallography in 2014 follows the centenary of the Nobel Prize for Physics being awarded to British father and son scientific partnership William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg, the founding fathers of crystallography.
Professor Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond Light Source, comments:
“It is extremely encouraging that UNESCO has chosen to designate 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography. We intend to embrace every opportunity to communicate the amazing science that this technique has enabled researchers to carry out over the last century. Crystallography revolutionised science 100 years ago and when synchrotrons started to be built thirty years ago, they revolutionised crystallography. The paths of crystallography and synchrotrons are intertwined and we hope this year of recognition will allow us to share the wonder of what crystallography has made possible globally, along with our aspirations for future achievements based on the new technology we are bringing to Diamond.”
The programme of events will allow the public to participate in a range of engaging activities for all age groups from exhibitions and competitions, to hands on events, aimed at helping the public to find out more about this ground-breaking technique. Crystallography is the hidden science behind so many aspects of our lives and it has allowed scientists to achieve success in every area. Examples include the precise shape of human proteins that can lead on to better drugs to combat depression and anxiety, breakthroughs in harnessing the materials of the future, understanding the wave formation of electrons and designing life-saving vaccines. The ‘Diamond in Action’ calendar of events aims to reveal the details of the pioneering work done inside the facility’s giant, donut-shaped building in Oxfordshire.