New X-Ray Vision for Chemists
A new technique reveals the molecular structure of hard-to-study compounds.
Determining a molecule’s 3-D structure — important for drug development, forensic science and food production, among other fields — has never been easy. A popular method is a technique known as X-ray crystallography: Compounds are placed in a solution that promotes crystal growth. A single crystal is isolated and bombarded with X-rays, and the resulting patterns of diffraction are analyzed for clues about the molecule’s architecture. Some substances resist crystallization, but a technique introduced in March may help chemists map their dimensions as well.