Rensselaer Boasts New State-of-the-Art X-Ray Diffractometer To Support Regional Scientific and Technological Research

August 15, 2022

Rensselaer Boasts New State-of-the-Art X-Ray Diffractometer To Support Regional Scientific and Technological Research

$304,084 grant made new lab possible; Institute to make it available externally

Thanks to a $304,084 Major Research Instrumentation award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is now home to a state-of-the-art single-crystal X-ray diffractometer. The grant was awarded to a team of faculty led by Edwin Fohtung, associate professor of materials science and engineering.

“This instrument is capable of determining the atomic and molecular structure in a wide class of materials,” said Fohtung. “They include hard condensed matter systems such as crystalline solids, metals, insulators, and semiconductors and soft matter systems such as biological materials, proteins, organometallic complexes, and inorganic compounds.”

Hard and soft condensed matter systems are made up of regular, repeating arrangements of atoms that determine their properties. This instrument can precisely measure distances between atoms, as well as bond angles and bond lengths for the atoms bound to one another.

Thanks to this modern X-ray diffractometer, new and enhanced classes can be offered at Rensselaer on nanoscale X-ray scattering and imaging, protein structure determination, and experimental organic and inorganic chemistry that involve hands-on training in single-crystal characterization methods. Approximately 10-15 postdocs, 80 graduate students, and 65 undergraduate students at Rensselaer will use the lab over the next two years, many of whom are underrepresented minorities in STEM.

“It took many months to set up this lab, and I could not be more excited for the opportunities it presents,” said Peter Bonitatibus, professor of practice in chemistry and the lab’s director. “We will be able to analyze molecules that have far-reaching applications.”

Research and undergraduate programs from Union College, Skidmore College, Fairfield University, and other small colleges and universities will also have access to the game-changing tool.

“We, at Rensselaer, are thrilled to acquire this powerful X-ray diffractometer that will facilitate the characterization of new molecules and materials, and stimulate the development of solutions that span health care, energy, next-generation “beyond silicon” computing, and more,” said Curt M. Breneman, Dean of the School of Science. “Students, scientists and engineers from across the region will benefit from this new research and educational resource.”

Along with Bonitatibus, K.V. Lakshmi, professor of chemistry and chemical biology and director of the Baruch ’60 Center for Biochemical Solar Energy Research, and Jian Shi, associate professor of materials science and engineering, are co-principal investigators on the NSF award.


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