They have been around since the beginning of the earth and are ubiquitous in our lives. Crystals are found in Nature throughout many rocks, and in our daily lives we deal with crystals in the sugar and the salt that we add to foods, in digital clocks and computer chips, in medicines, and, literally, inside our bones. At the Molecular Energetics Group of Centro de Química Estrutural, Faculdade de Ciências, ULisboa, we are particularly interested in crystals made of organic molecules, which are the basis of many dyes, agrochemicals and medicines. We have been discovering that crystals may come in many shapes and forms.
Let's find out more about their incredible structures.
Meet the Crystals
In most solid materials we use in our daily life, the atoms and molecules are not randomly distributed, but organized with a long range order. This microscopic organization, which is named the crystal structure (the crystal skeleton), can be determined using experimental methods, such as X-ray diffraction and a set of mathematical procedures.
The self-assembling process of molecules into crystals often leads to visually appealing macroscopic structures, which are related to the arrangements established at a microscopic level (the molecular packing). These arrangements strongly influence the physical properties of the crystals themselves (e.g. color, melting or solubility), and of the products in which they are used. Therefore, studying the interplay between the crystal structure and properties, both at macro and micro scales, is extremely important to understand how materials with controlled properties and performance can be manufactured. This is, crucial in sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry, that needs to ensure the reproducible manufacture, safety, and efficacy of marketed drugs.
Some years ago our group opened a research line focused on the relationship between genesis, structure, stability and properties of crystals made of organic molecules. This topic is the core of an ongoing research project funded by FEDER and Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT-Portugal), projects PTDC/QUI-OUT/28401/2017, LISBOA-01-0145-FEDER-028401. Throughout this project, many images of new crystals have been collected, which are now on display at this webpage. Here you can also find which molecular arrangements lead to the macroscopic shapes you see (what are the skeletons of the crystals?), and learn about the uses of these substances. Please go to the Portfolio section to enjoy and explore some of the most beautiful pictures of crystals we produced during the last years.
NOTE: All images in this webpage were obtained at the Molecular Energetics Group. Some of them were modified to highlight specific characteristics of the produced materials.
Financiado pela Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P./MCTES através de fundos nacionais (PIDDAC) e cofinanciado pelo Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional (FEDER) da União Europeia, através do Programa Operacional Regional de Lisboa do Portugal 2020 ou de outros programas que lhe possam suceder (PTDC/QUI-OUT/28401/2017, LISBOA-01-0145-FEDER-028401)