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Tokyo Team Achieves Fundamental Breakthrough in Crystallography

A research team led by Professor Makoto Fujita of the University of Tokyo, Japan, and complemented by Academy Professor Kari Rissanen of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, has made a fundamental breakthrough in single-crystal X-ray analysis, the most powerful method for molecular structure determination. The team's breakthrough was reported online in Nature on March 27, 2013. X-ray single-crystal diffraction (SCD) analysis has the intrinsic limitation that the target molecule must be obtained in the form of single crystals. Now, Professor Fujita's team, together with Academy Professor Rissanen, has established a new protocol for SCD analysis that does not require the crystallization of the target molecule. In this method, a very small crystal of a porous complex absorbs the target molecule from the solution, enabling the crystallographic analysis of the structure of the absorbed guest along with the host framework. As the SCD analysis is carried out with only one crystal, smaller than 0.1 mm x 0.1 mm x 0.1 mm in size, the required amount of the target molecule can be as low as 80 ng. Dr. Fujita's and Dr. Rissanen's work reports the structure determination of a scarce marine natural product from only 5 µg of the material. Many natural and synthetic compounds for which chemists have almost given up the hope of analyzing crystallographically can now be easily and precisely characterized by this new method. [Press release] [Nature abstract]