Organic chemistry can find new horizons at the nanoscale

Ahead of the great Biannual RSEQ Conference in Granada, where around 1.800 scientists from the vast field of chemistry are expected, we at ELDICO are preparing to introduce electron diffraction to a broader community including the neighboring fields of crystallography. We are convinced that electron diffraction as a fast-emerging nano-analytical technique has the potential to change the way solid state analytics is being done in the future. The ED-1, designed in 2019 by ELDICO Scientific is the first dedicated and market-available electron diffractometer in the world and the first instrument of its kind to welcome commercial samples for individual measurements in the Basel Electron Diffraction Experience Center, open to the public since beginning of 2022. This will propel the dissemination of electron diffraction and nano-crystallography to new horizons.

1. Tell us a bit about your background – and how did you come about to build an electron diffractometer?

I am a chemist by training with more than 18 years of experience in crystallography and I contributed to more than 40 peer-reviewed publications while I was teaching at FU Berlin, EPF-Lausanne, RWTH Aachen and ETH Zurich. One of the observations that persisted during my career was that it is not easy to get good crystals for diffraction purposes, which is a tedious process or even sometimes impossible to achieve. When Tim Grüne led the Nano-Argovia project, that created results later published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition (I am a co-author) about the potential of ED while measuring a sample of paracetamol with me, the idea came to my mind: why not – rather than work on retrofitted electron microscopes – build an instrument for electron diffraction purposes solely. This we did.

2. Why do you think electron diffraction can play an important role for the people joining the conference in Granada?

Most of the scientists joining the congress are chemists and one of their everlasting objectives is to investigate new materials for different kinds of applications in various fields like pharmaceuticals, MOFs, energy storage, catalysts, organics, inorganics, etc. The performance and processability of these materials are embedded in their properties – and this in turn is dependent on the molecular structure of the material, most commonly understood with SC-XRD experiments. Crystalline structural elucidation can be difficult or time consuming as classical methods like SC-XRD or synchrotrons require good crystals with at least one dimension of some 5 micrometre or higher. With ELDICOs ED-1, crystals’ size does not matter anymore. The process of structural elucidation now using electrons becomes much faster and accessible to any researcher

3. Where do you see electron diffraction in 10 years?

Actually, I share the view of many that electron diffraction would not fully replace XRD, since the technology is more established if you have large enough crystals. But sooner or later it will put an end to the practice of using full blown electron microscopes, which are at the moment, if I may say so, rather an interim solution until dedicated electron diffractometers are broadly available. With their availability, electron diffraction will a have an ever-growing impact for many areas, not only regarding structure elucidations but also absolute configuration determination, phase identification, micro crystallinity in amorphous materials and quality control to name a few.

4. Electron diffraction is not a new technique. Tell us something about ELDICO’s ED-1 device and the novel things it brings along.

The ED-1 has a disruptive horizontal design and an innovative sample-handling mechanism. The device is based on the principles of SC-XRD (continuous rotation for data acquisition). It helps scientists enter the field of nano-crystallography and produce important structural information faster, with better quality and at lower cost. With this addition, any crystallographic lab will be able to perform routine analysis and structural elucidation on samples that have so far been considered inaccessible – including nanocrystalline powders, minute quantities of material or impurities and phase mixtures. More broadly, crystallographic research on the nano-scale can positively impact crucial fields such as healthcare, energy storage, environment and many others.

5. If people want to learn more about ELDICO’s ED-1, how can they do this?

ELDICO recently opened an ED Experience Centre in Basel, the very heart of the global pharma industry. There we run a platform for industrial and academic users such as Roche, Idorsia, Boehringer-Ingelheim and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. It offers the opportunity to see the device in function for application development. In-person or online demonstrations are bookable. Moreover, we kicked-off our summer campaign 'Pitch your sample' – whereby, if you describe an interesting property or application of your nano-crystal (or material) – or a challenging aspect – we commit to pick winners that would come then visit us with their samples and see how a measurement is carried out. Those can see and practice the complete workflow from sample preparation to crystal structure determination and thus learn how to become an electron diffractometrist in a day.


Meet Gustavo and Danny at the upcoming RSEQ conference in Granada.

If you can’t make it to Granada, write us an email and/or meet ELDICOs scientific team in Basel (CH), or check our full list of events here to watch out for other opportunities.

In any case you can participate in our initiative 'Pitch your Sample' Follow the link below to find out more!

Pitch your sample 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.