Home Features Best of 2013 The Best of 2013 // #79: A New Method for finding Molecule Architecture

The Best of 2013 // #79: A New Method for finding Molecule Architecture

The Best of 2013 // #79: A New Method for finding Molecule Architecture

Figuring out the 3D structure of a molecule – critical in food production, pharmaceutical development, forensic analysis and more – has never been as easy as it is right now.  The most common method is know as X-Ray Crystallography: compounds are simply placed into a solution to promote crystal growth.  A single crystal is then separate from the other, and blasted with X-rays;  the resulting pattern of diffraction are studied to determine the molecule’s structure.  Some substances, however, resist the crystallization method, but a new technique introduced in March will help researchers determine those molecules better.

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A team from the University of Tokyo, led by Makoto Fujita, built scaffold-like structures – known as metal-organic frameworks or MOFs – where the empty spaces can absorb molecules and provide an ordered array that allows molecules to be characterized by X-Ray.  The method was quickly noted as a game changer, for its ease of use, efficiency and performance with substances that were resistant to the crystallization process.

The project suffered a setback in the summer, when chemists questioned the transferability of the method to a wider range of compounds.  In October, independent researchers in both Kyoto and MIT were able to successfully apply the method to other molecules, re-igniting the excitement about the potential for this method to be used in a variety of applications.

There’s more stories from 2013.  Check out the Best of 2013 series here

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