Scientist Yu-Sheng Chen calibrates the needle of the X-ray diffraction machine at ChemMatCARS in the Advanced Photon Source. The beamline is the only place in the U.S. able to examine the small crystals of compound that may be able to identify biological and chemical weapons.

Scientists Santanu Banerjee, Mercouri Kanatzidis, and Yu-Sheng Chen (L. to R.) examine the X-ray diffraction machine at the ChemMatCARS beamline in the Advanced Photon Source.

A promising light-conversion material almost went unrecognized because the it crystallized only in long, thin spines that couldn’t be characterized by normal x-ray diffraction. Microcrystal diffraction at ChemMatCARS showed the developers what properties to look for, specifically, the ability to double the wavelength of incoming light. They found the material is 15 times better at wavelength doubling than the current industry standard for comparable nonlinear optical materials. The material is also transparent across a wider range of wavelengths. It could be used in spectrometers for detecting chemical and biological weapons at a distance and for more efficient optical communications. 

Journal Article (JACS 130, 12270, 2008)