Michele Zema, IUCr Outreach officer
How do you encourage youngsters to think about crystallography? Start from the beginning and let them grow a crystal!
Crystal growth is such an important subject that it should be considered as a science in itself. It has its own journals and even an international organization, the International Organization for Crystal Growth, which coordinates the activities of researchers involved in the field.
Crystallization is still one of the most powerful purification methods in chemistry, used frequently at both university and industrial levels.
There is a tremendous amount of theory behind the science of crystal growth, and more and more sophisticated methods have been developed to understand the ever increasing numbers of resultant crystal structures. These discoveries can lead to new or better understood materials and properties covering many inorganic, organic and biological substances including drugs, nanostructured phases and many kinds of materials such as semiconductors, superconductors, magnetic materials and so on.
Don’t forget growing a crystal is also a lot of fun!
To coincide with the celebrations for the UN International Year of Crystallography 2014 (IYCr2014) and with the aim of raising awareness about this growing discipline, the IUCr launched a worldwide crystal-growing competition for schoolchildren (categories 15-18, 11-15 and under 11), which has now reached its fourth cycle. It aims to introduce students to the exciting, challenging and sometimes frustrating world of growing crystals. Students are invited to record a video to convey their experience to a panel of experts. The winning contributions in each category receive ‘Young crystal growers’ certificates and medals.
The IUCr also provides schoolchildren and teachers with educational material (brochures, videos, etc.) to explain the basic concepts of crystals and crystal growth and the importance of crystallization techniques in many fields.
At the IYCr2014 Closing Ceremony, it was reported that national crystal-growing competitions were taking place in at least 34 countries. This is great news but we would like to boost this number and encourage more schools to participate in the international competition, and for this we need your help. If you want to inspire youngsters in what may become a lifelong love of crystallography, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.