High-Pressure Crystallography: From Novel Experimental Approaches to Cutting-edge Technologies

Erice, Italy, June, 2009, www.crystalerice.org/

[Erice 2009 logo]

The 2009 Erice school on high-pressure research was co-directed by Elena Boldyreva (Novosibirsk, Russia) and Przemek Dera (Chicago, USA) and supported by the IUCr Commissions on High-Pressure, Teaching, Inorganic and Mineral Structures. The school was attended by 122 participants from USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Poland, Spain, Sweden, China, India, Netherlands, South African Republic, Israel, Switzerland, Belarus, Nigeria, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Colombia, Brazil, and Portugal. With respect to gender distribution, 8 out of 46 speakers, and 44 out of 122 participants were female and 20% of invited speakers were younger than 35 years of age.

The topics covered included: physics (properties and structure), chemistry (chemical reactions, transport), materials science (new materials), and engineering (mechanical properties), implications for geology (minerals in their natural, deep earth environments), planetary sciences, biology and medicine. In addition, direct or indirect (e.g. economic) applications of high-pressure science in several fields of modern technology have been considered. Such a variety of topics produced a 'densely packed' program which 'kept the participants under pressure' for 10 days.

[Laboratory demonstration]

Formal presentatons included a general introduction to high pressure science (P. Dera, USA), principles of operation of the diamond anvil cells (M. Paz-Pasternak, Israel), large volume press techniques (Yanbin Wang, USA), synchrotron X-ray diffraction at high pressure, including high- and low-temperature research (M. Mezoua, France and P. Dera, USA), Mossbauer and high-resolution inelastic scattering. (J. Jackson, USA), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (J.-P. Itie, France), different approaches to measuring transport properties under pressure (L. Dubrovinsky, Germany), plastic properties, texture analysis, elasticity, plasticity and rheology of minerals and materials (S. Merkel, France and Y. Wang, USA), and high-intensity and high-resolution neutron diffraction and scattering at high pressure (A. Balagurov, Russia and J. Loveday, UK). Other lectures emphasized applications of these techniques and approaches. In the workshops the students were taught how to adjust a DAC, load a sample into the DAC and crystallize a liquid in it (C. Pulham, UK, assisted by K. Dziubek, Poland, and G. Hearne, South Africa), how to treat high-pressure X-ray powder diffraction data (Y.Filinchuk, France), how to obtain reliable and correct data on the equation of state (T. Boffa-Balaran, Germany), and calculations of crystal structures and properties at high pressures using different algorithms (A. Oganov, USA and P. Macchi, Switzerland). Handouts with detailed explanations of the procedures were provided, and the participants had an opportunity to use the software on the computers at the Ettore Majorana Center, as well as their own laptops.

A round-table discussion on the improvement of data collecting and processing was organized by N. Casati (Italy) assisted by F. Fabbiani (Germany), K. Dziubek (Poland), and P. Dera (USA). An important outcome of the 'round table' was the birth of three new online Digital Resources for High Pressure Crystallography (DigResH-PX). The DigResHPX package includes: a High Pressure Crystallography blog: http://hpdac.net/, mailing list: hpdac@hpc.amu. edu.pl, and a wiki: cars9.uchicago.edu/surfacewiki/HPCrystallography. These online tools and services provide a communication platform for exchange of technical information, advice, references, discussions etc. for high-pressure crystallography. The poster sessions were preceded by short oral presentations of all 52 posters.

[Erice 2009 attendees]

This year the tradition of a virtual course was continued by J. Irwin (USA), K. Dziubek and A. Budzianowski (Poland). The lectures were broadcast to several countries. Despite a 5 hour time difference 30 people followed the lectures in Novosibirsk, thanks to the cooperation of JointLab Director A. Arzhannikov and REC-008 Director V. Boldyrev of the Novosibirsk State U. Technical. The support of N. Zanin (Centre of the New Information Technologies NSU), and the organizational efforts of Anna Nartova (REC-008) are gratefully acknowledged. Most of the lectures can be downloaded from the HPCrystallography wiki (see DigResHPX above). A book will be published as part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series: B – Physics and Biophysics by Springer.

The team of 'orange scarfs' (A. Guerri, I. Doverbratt, A. Olejniczak, A. Idczak, E. Papinutto, M. Lusi, and F. Nicoli) led by Lodovico Riva di Sanseverino (Bologna, Italy), Paola Spadon (Padova, Italy) and J. Irwin (UCSF, USA) did a great job of organizing the meeting. As one of the participants commented: 'All we participants had to do was to be on time. The organizers did the rest of the job'.

Elena Boldyreva, Paola Spadon and Przemyslaw Dera