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Concept: Crystallography


Crystallization of noble metal atoms usually leads to the highly symmetric face-centred cubic phase that represents the thermodynamically stable structure. Introducing defective microstructures into a metal crystal lattice may induce distortions to form non-face-centered cubic phases when the lateral dimensions of objects decrease down to nanometre scale. However, stable non-face-centered cubic phases have not been reported in noble metal nanoparticles. Here we report that a stable body-centred tetragonal phase is observed in silver nanoparticles with fivefold twinning even at ambient conditions. The body-centered tetragonal phase originates from the distortion of cubic silver lattices due to internal strains in the twinned nanoparticles. The lattice distortion in the centre of such a nanoparticle is larger than that in the surfaces, indicating that the nanoparticle is composed of a highly strained core encapsulated in a less-strained sheath that helps stabilize the strained core.

Concepts: Crystal, Crystallography, Nanomaterials, Gold, Crystal system, Atomic packing factor, Reciprocal lattice, Diamond cubic


A Si(111) winged crystal has been designed to minimize anticlastic bending and improve sagittal focusing efficiency. The crystal was thin with wide stiffening wings. The length-to-width ratio of the crystal was optimized by finite element analysis, and the optimal value was larger than the `golden value'. The analysis showed that the slope error owing to anticlastic bending is less than the Darwin width. The X-rays were focused two-dimensionally using the crystal and a tangentially bent mirror. The observed profiles of the focal spot agreed well with the results of a ray-tracing calculation in the energy range from 8 to 17.5 keV. X-ray diffraction measurements with a high signal-to-noise ratio using this focusing system were demonstrated for a small protein crystal.

Concepts: Electron, Diffraction, X-ray, Crystallography, Electromagnetic radiation, Finite element method, X-ray crystallography, Synchrotron radiation


We report a simple method to fabricate nano-porous tantalum oxide films via anodization with Ta foils as the anode at room temperature. A mixture of ethylene glycol, phosphoric acid, NH4F and H2O was used as the electrolyte where the nano-porous tantalum oxide could be synthesized by anodizing a tantalum foil for 1 h at 20 V in a two-electrode configuration. The as-prepared porous film exhibited a continuous, uniform and coral-like morphology. The diameters of pores ranged from 30 nm to 50 nm. The pores interlaced each other and the depth was about 150 nm. After calcination, the as-synthesized amorphous tantalum oxide could be crystallized to the orthorhombic crystal system. As observed in photocatalytic experiments, the coral-like tantalum oxide exhibited a higher photocatalytic activity for the degradation of phenol than that with a compact surface morphology, and the elimination rate of phenol increased by 66.7%.

Concepts: Crystallography, Crystal system, Ethylene glycol, Niobium, Electrolytic capacitor, Orthorhombic crystal system, Tantalum capacitor


This work demonstrates an anisotropic increase in resistivity with decreasing width in single crystal tungsten (W) nanowires having a height of 21 nm. Nanowire-widths were in the range of 15-451 nm, with the anisotropy observed for widths below 50 nm. The longitudinal directions of the nanowires coincided with the <100>, <110> and <111> orientations of the body centered cubic phase of W. The resistivity increase was observed to be minimized for the <111>-oriented single crystal nanowires, exhibiting a factor of two lower increase in resistivity at a width of ~15 nm, relative to the thin film resistivity (i.e., an infinitely wide wire). The observed anisotropy is attributed to crystallographic anisotropy of the Fermi velocity and the resultant anisotropy of the electron mean free path in W, and underscores the critical role of crystallographic orientation in nanoscale metallic conduction.

Concepts: Crystallography, Condensed matter physics, Orientation, Crystal system, Cubic crystal system, Coordination number, Atomic packing factor, Space group


CeB2O4F is the first cerium fluoride borate, which is exclusively built up of one-dimensional, infinite chains of condensed trigonal-planar [BO3](3-) groups. This new cerium fluoride borate was synthesized under high-pressure/high-temperature conditions of 0.9 GPa and 1450 °C in a Walker-type multianvil apparatus. The compound crystallizes in the orthorhombic space group Pbca (No. 61) with eight formula units and the lattice parameters a=821.63(5), b=1257.50(9), c=726.71(6) pm, V=750.84(9) Å(3), R 1=0.0698, and wR 2=0.0682 (all data). The structure exhibits a 9+1 coordinated cerium ion, one three-fold coordinated fluoride ion and a one-dimensional chain of [BO3](3-) groups. Furthermore, IR spectroscopy, Electron Micro Probe Analysis and temperature-dependent X-ray powder diffraction measurements were performed.

Concepts: Diffraction, Crystallography, Materials science, X-ray crystallography, Crystal system, Powder diffraction, Neutron diffraction, Crystallographic database


Serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) takes advantage of extremely bright and ultrashort pulses produced by x-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs), allowing for the collection of high-resolution diffraction intensities from micrometer-sized crystals at room temperature with minimal radiation damage, using the principle of “diffraction-before-destruction.” However, de novo structure factor phase determination using XFELs has been difficult so far. We demonstrate the ability to solve the crystallographic phase problem for SFX data collected with an XFEL using the anomalous signal from native sulfur atoms, leading to a bias-free room temperature structure of the human A2A adenosine receptor at 1.9 Å resolution. The advancement was made possible by recent improvements in SFX data analysis and the design of injectors and delivery media for streaming hydrated microcrystals. This general method should accelerate structural studies of novel difficult-to-crystallize macromolecules and their complexes.

Concepts: Diffraction, X-ray, Crystallography, Fundamental physics concepts, Laser, X-ray crystallography, Neutron diffraction, Free electron laser


Increasing the data acquisition rate of X-ray diffraction images for macromolecular crystals at room temperature at synchrotrons has the potential to significantly accelerate both structural analysis of biomolecules and structure-based drug developments. Using lysozyme model crystals, we demonstrated the rapid acquisition of X-ray diffraction datasets by combining a high frame rate pixel array detector with ultrasonic acoustic levitation of protein crystals in liquid droplets. The rapid spinning of the crystal within a levitating droplet ensured an efficient sampling of the reciprocal space. The datasets were processed with a program suite developed for serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX). The structure, which was solved by molecular replacement, was found to be identical to the structure obtained by the conventional oscillation method for up to a 1.8-Å resolution limit. In particular, the absence of protein crystal damage resulting from the acoustic levitation was carefully established. These results represent a key step towards a fully automated sample handling and measurement pipeline, which has promising prospects for a high acquisition rate and high sample efficiency for room temperature X-ray crystallography.

Concepts: DNA, Diffraction, X-ray, Crystallography, X-ray crystallography, Powder diffraction, Neutron diffraction, Bragg's law


New developments in neutron and synchrotron science and technology are discussed.

Concepts: Crystal, Crystallography, X-ray crystallography, Crystal system, Technology, Crystallographic database, Atomic packing factor


A series of Fe(3+)-bearing Li7La3Zr2O12 (LLZO) garnets was synthesized using solid-state synthesis methods. The synthetic products were characterized compositionally using electron microprobe analysis and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and structurally using X-ray powder diffraction and (57)Fe Mössbauer spectroscopy. A maximum of about 0.25 Fe(3+) pfu could be incorporated in Li7-3x Fe x La3Zr2O12 garnet solid solutions. At Fe(3+) concentrations lower than about 0.16 pfu, both tetragonal and cubic garnets were obtained in the synthesis experiments. X-ray powder diffraction analysis showed only a garnet phase for syntheses with starting materials having intended Fe(3+) contents lower than 0.52 Fe(3+) pfu. Back-scattered electron images made with an electron microprobe also showed no phase other than garnet for these compositions. The lattice parameter, a 0, for all solid-solution garnets is similar with a value of a 0≈12.98 Å regardless of the amount of Fe(3+). (57)Fe Mössbauer spectroscopic measurements indicate the presence of poorly- or nano-crystalline FeLaO3 in syntheses with Fe(3+) contents greater than 0.16 Fe(3+) pfu. The composition of different phase pure Li7-3x Fe x La3Zr2O12 garnets, as determined by electron microprobe (Fe, La, Zr) and ICP-OES (Li) measurements, give Li6.89Fe0.03La3.05Zr2.01O12, Li6.66Fe0.06La3.06Zr2.01O12, Li6.54Fe0.12La3.01Zr1.98O12, and Li6.19Fe0.19La3.02Zr2.04O12. The (57)Fe Mössbauer spectrum of cubic Li6.54Fe0.12La3.01Zr1.98O12 garnet indicates that most Fe(3+) occurs at the special crystallographic 24d position, which is the standard tetrahedrally coordinated site in garnet. Fe(3+) in smaller amounts occurs at a general 96h site, which is only present for certain Li-oxide garnets, and in Li6.54Fe0.12La3.01Zr1.98O12 this Fe(3+) has a distorted 4-fold coordination.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Diffraction, Crystallography, Chemical synthesis, X-ray crystallography, Powder diffraction, Neutron diffraction, Electron microprobe


Two new 16-nor limonoids, harperspinoids A and B (1 and 2), with a unique 7/5/5/6/5 ring system, have been isolated from the plant Harrisonia perforate together with a known one, Harperforin G (3). Their structures were elucidated by NMR spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction analysis and computational modelling. Compound 1 exists as polymorphic crystals. Conformations of 1 in solution were further discussed based on the computational results. These compounds exhibited notable inhibitory activity against the 11β-HSD1 enzyme. Compound 3 had potencies for the inhibition of human 11β-HSD1 with high selectivity against 11β-HSD2 (IC50 0.58 μM, SI > 174). Molecular docking and quantitative structure-activity relationship studies revealed a mixed regulatory mechanism.

Concepts: Protein structure, Diffraction, X-ray, Crystallography, Chemistry, Enzyme inhibitor, Medicinal chemistry, Protein nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy