5 biggest misconceptions about electron diffraction

Back in the summer of 2021, together with the IUCr, we asked 150 crystallographers what they think about the future of the field and what is their knowledge on and about electron diffraction (or electron crystallography, which they surely preferred as a nomenclature). The purpose of this study was to explore how electron diffraction has emerged as an analytical technique in crystallography, and how it is perceived by industrial and academic scientists throughout various industries. 

We were surprised, however, to see some common misconceptions about the technique either demystified or recurrent throughout the answers. We compiled a list and offer you a short preliminary look at the survey.

  1. Electron diffraction is not a priority for crystallographers

Wrong: Around 90% of crystallographers know about electron diffraction and 70% of respondents have at least once performed a nano-crystallographic experiment. Moreover, on a scale from 1 to 10, respondents have ranked electron diffraction high, as an 8.3 in terms of relevance for their future research.


  1. Electron diffraction cannot address the biggest challenges 

Wrong: 86% of crystallographers consider that small crystal size and the consequent need to grow crystals is the biggest challenge for crystallography, followed by twining and phase mixtures. Electron diffraction can address all these 3 challenges. For an interesting and fresh insight into twinning, check out experiment on ‘pseudo-twins’ here. To read more about how electron diffraction can deal with small crystals and phase mixtures, it is worth to check our product page


  1. Electron diffraction doesn’t have the potential to become widely applied

Wrong: 63% believe that electron diffraction is a proven technique that has the potential to become widely used. Almost all respondents have an X-ray device in house and 60% of them deal with nano-solids. Sounds like the need for a straightforward solution is very much present.


  1. Electron diffraction has no appropriate instrumentation, hence cannot be seamlessly incorporated into the existing analytical processes

Wrong: Even though they would need to perform nano-crystallographic experiments, 70% of respondents cannot because they cite the lack of proper instrumentation for electron diffraction as an impediment. Tim Gruene and Enrico Mugnaioli have pointed out in their latest collaborative study  that the electron diffractometer exists and provides great results.

However, it’s true that not many crystallographers have had the opportunity to see a dedicated electron diffractometer in action. This is why ELDICO's Experience Center in Basel offers sample measurements 'as-a-service' for industrial as well as academic clients. The offering encompasses measurement and data acquisition and well as data interpretation.


  1. Electron diffraction has no real applications for industries like pharma or organic chemistry

Wrong: Maybe the most striking finding of the study was to realise that most respondents (over 90%) are not aware of the application electron diffraction has for big industries like pharma: e-PDF, crystal mapping, quality control, fraud detection, fragment screening, etc.

Admittedly, even though the technology itself is not new (Ute Kolb, a member of our Scientific Advisory Board has been working with ED for more than 30 years), a lot of possibilities are neither explored nor widely known. We believe this will change sooner than perhaps expected.

With that in mind we organized our launch event for the ELDICO ED-1, our dedicated electron diffractometer, around this topic precisely: Applications of electron diffraction in pharma and beyond. Together with leading representatives from industry and academia, we will discuss electron diffraction and its potential to help with previously inaccessible crystalline solids.

See full agenda of our upcoming launch event here or register below. 

Check event agenda and register here

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ELDICO Scientific AG (The Electron Diffraction Company) is a Swiss technology and service company founded in 2019 and based in the Switzerland Innovation Park Innovaare at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), a world-leading research institute for natural sciences and engineering. ELDICO develops, manufactures and commercializes electron diffractometers , i.e. novel analytical instruments for electron based crystallography, enabling to investigate nano-crystalline samples. ELDICO will launch the first instrument specifically designed for nano-crystallographic investigations. Proof-of-concept was achieved in 2018 (ETH Zurich, C-CINA Basel) as part of a Nano-Argovia project of the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI). It was published in 2018 and awarded Top 5 "Breakthrough of the Year 2018" by the leading science magazine SCIENCE. In 2020 among other public recognitions on Swiss and EU level, ELDICO took 2nd place in the prestigious Pioneer Prize awarded by Technopark Zurich and the Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB). ELDICO’s clients are industrial and academic researchers in large and fast growing industries such as the pharmaceutical industry, the electromobility, and the advanced materials / MOF sector. The company partners with leading engineering companies and component suppliers among Dectris, Excillum and SmarAct to deliver superior performance. www.eldico-scientific.com