Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Suspend the crystals, and they grow better

Date:
December 21, 2012
Source:
Radboud University Nijmegen
Summary:
The idea is so simple you wonder why no one thought of it before. Crystals growing near the bottom of a beaker are subject to convection, but it is much quieter near the top of the beaker. In that case, why not just let them grow hanging in the beaker? Well, the idea was there for the taking, and that is exactly what researchers have done.

The idea is so simple you wonder why no one thought of it before. Crystals growing near the bottom of a beaker are subject to convection, but it is much quieter near the top of the beaker. In that case, why not just let them grow hanging in the beaker? Well, the idea was there for the taking, and that is exactly what Elias Vlieg and his team from Radboud University Nijmegen have done.

Their work will be published in this month's edition of Crystal Growth & Design.

Proteins are the building blocks of life and incredibly complicated. Because their structure determines the way that they work, many researchers are attempting to define the structure of protein molecules as accurately as possible. No easy task, as they first need crystals -- pure crystals. The best way to obtain such pure crystals is to let them grow slowly, with no vibrations or other disturbances. You cannot therefore just leave them in a beaker in a quiet corner of the room; the density differential means that the solution flows under the influence of gravity and the crystal grows too quickly.

Into space...

If gravity is the problem, then into space with them -- crystal growth experiments have been carried out in weightless conditions in space for 25 years already. Elias Vlieg, Professor of Solid State Chemistry at Radboud University Nijmegen, also once sent crystals into space to grow in an unmanned satellite, though with disappointing results -- a situation that has not much improved. 'Scientifically speaking, it is a dead end.'

... or suspended in a magnet

The university in Nijmegen has got a magnet sitting in its back garden that is so strong it can work against gravity: the HFML. In 2007, Vlieg successfully crystallised proteins in the magnetic field produced by the HFML. In doing so, all the problems involved with growing crystals under the effect of gravity were avoided: no lower density solution flowed above the crystal. And then came the Eureka moment: why not just do away with 'above'? Hang the crystals seeds high up in the solution and make sure that nothing else can flow above them -- no more need for spaceships or magnets!

Developed and investigated

The idea was thoroughly tested by the Egyptian PhD student Alaa Adawy, with remarkably good results. The hanging crystals grow more perfectly than the 'old' type and therefore diffract X-rays to much higher resolution limits (X-ray diffraction is the standard method for determining protein structures). Vlieg's idea has been well received and he hopes that other researchers will soon start growing crystals using this method. In his laboratory, all the hanging crystals have done better than the others. 'The crystallisation of proteins is high precision work; everything in the solution has to be exactly right -- the salt concentration, the temperature -- it in an industry in itself. Achieving such an improvement in results just by changing one factor is spectacular.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Radboud University Nijmegen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alaa Adawy, Etienne Rebuffet, Susanna Tornroth-Horsefield, Willem J. DeGrip, Willem J. P. van Enckevort, Elias Vlieg. High Resolution Protein Crystals Using an Efficient Convection-Free Geometry. Crystal Growth & Design, 2012; 121205124039002 DOI: 10.1021/cg301497t

Cite This Page:

Radboud University Nijmegen. "Suspend the crystals, and they grow better." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121221113949.htm>.
Radboud University Nijmegen. (2012, December 21). Suspend the crystals, and they grow better. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121221113949.htm
Radboud University Nijmegen. "Suspend the crystals, and they grow better." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121221113949.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — MIT developed a robot modeled after a cheetah. It can run up to speeds of 10 mph, though researchers estimate it will eventually reach 30 mph. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 15, 2014) — New York officials unveil subway tunnels that were refurbished after Superstorm Sandy. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins