Electron diffraction: after the bottleneck is before the bottleneck

In an article on crystallography and – in particular – electron diffraction for Nachrichten aus der Chemie[1], Klaus Merz (University of Bochum, Germany) recognizes the innovative potential of new crystallographic methods such as electron, neutron and synchrotron radiation. These techniques are now making it possible to study atomic structures of previously inaccessible crystalline solids.

In addition to the performance of new detector systems, the benefit from increased computing power and the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD) containing one million crystal structures allowing data to be used in ways that would have been unimaginable in the past, the article emphasizes the role of electron diffraction.

Addressing the availability of sufficiently large crystals as one of the main (and well known) bottlenecks, the author sees electron diffraction and quantum crystallography to have enormous potential: one current development is the structure elucidation of nanocrystalline molecular compounds by electron diffraction. Thanks to a combination of a hybrid pixel detector with a transmission electron microscope, it is now possible to determine the structure of single crystals as small as a few tens of nanometres.

We believe that the need for a still-very-expensive (and in our view not-very-suitable) microED device, which is mainly an electron microscope, will be the next bottleneck further down the road towards a swift and accurate analysis of nanocrystalline samples. Moreover, these experiments are not within reach for the majority of crystallographers, forcing scientists around the world to rely on data from alternative sources.

ELDICO´s dedicated electron diffractometer is a well advanced instrument concept that will enable analysis of nano-sized solid compounds. Organic chemists will be among the first users to learn about and appreciate the advantages of this disruptive technology. We are currently in dialogue with many user groups and are finding a keen awareness of the methodology itself as well as great interest in our instrument concept that will beat the “retrofitted” electron microscopes in terms of usability, quality, time to obtain data and – last but not least – in cost.


[1] Trendbericht Analytische Chemie, Nachrichten aus der Chemie, 68, April 2020, 56-57 and references therein


More Scientific Content from ELDICO:

What are Electron Diffraction and Nanocrystallography and why are they important? (White Paper) --- Rapid Structure Determination of Microcrystalline Molecular Compounds Using Electron Diffraction (Peer-Reviewed Paper) --- Can Electron Diffraction distinguish between carbon and nitrogen atoms? (Application Note).

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ELDICO Scientific, The Electron Diffraction Company, is a Swiss hardware company founded 2019 and is located in Switzerland Innovation Park Innovaare at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), one of the world's leading research centers for natural and engineering sciences. ELDICO develops, produces and sells electron diffractometers for the analysis of solid compounds enabling industrial and scientific researchers to characterise hitherto unmeasurable nano-crystalline systems. So far conventional methods (X-ray) fail, because they require bigger crystal sizes, which are often difficult or even impossible to produce. With support of the Nano Argovia Programme and the Swiss Nanosience Insitute (SNI) the proof-of-concept was achieved in 2018 (ETH Zurich, C-CINA Basel) on scientifically and industrially relevant samples.