Commission on Electron Crystallography

Commission on Electron Crystallography

Electron crystallography is the branch of science that uses electron scattering and imaging to study the structure of matter

[CEC logo] 

We stand at a cross-road in electron crystallography. Revolutionary advances are taking place in electron microscope imaging with a factor of four improvements over the last few years and 0.5 Ångströms now attainable. The ability to image materials is no longer limited to two dimensions, and we are starting to approach three-dimensional atomic imaging of materials. The sensitivity of these instruments is also improving rapidly, now able to image conformational changes in organic molecules and the first report suggesting imaging of single hydrogen atoms has appeared very recently in Nature. Similar rapid progress is taking place with techniques such as precession electron diffraction and diffractive imaging. Precession electron diffraction is rapidly maturing as a tool for fingerprinting materials, and is starting to see applications not just in hard materials but also in soft materials and pharmaceuticals. The number of users of electron microscopy and diffraction, always large in the US and Europe, continues to increase as developing countries such as India purchase new instruments to improve their technological base.

At the same time as the field is moving rapidly forward, there are potential problems which are also opportunities. The price of electron microscopes has escalated rapidly over the last few years, as has the annual maintenance contracts which determine the costs to use these instruments. In many cases the best instruments are no longer at individual universities but have become part of larger central facilities or national labs. The instruments are also become easier to use, which means that many students who come into electron diffraction not longer have the extensive training in the underlying physics of diffraction, crystallography and imaging that was standard a few years ago. Frequently there is a drive to increase the number of inexperienced users and have a higher throughput of samples in order to cover the escalating usage costs. Parallel with this in many cases the instruments are used only to obtain qualitative information, not as precise measuring tools.

The aim of the CEC is:

  • To strengthen links and interactions among electron crystallographers, and to promote a common language
  • To promote the presence at IUCr meetings of scientists working in the field of electron crystallography
  • To promote the publication of electron crystallography papers in the journals of the IUCr
  • To encourage the development and dissemination of mathematical and theoretical methods, software and databases for the solution of electron crystallographic problems
  • To promote the use of precise measurements based upon electron scattering
  • To promote and organize symposia of interest to electron crystallographers during IUCr Congresses and meetings of Regional Associates, in cooperation with other Commissions of the Union
  • To promote and organize meetings, workshops and schools in electron crystallography, particularly targeting post-graduate students and young scientists

These pages are maintained by the Commission Last updated: 15 Oct 2021