Scientists discover new way to grow crystals

Direct control over polymorphism has been long sought after by scientists and notoriously difficult to achieve.
By Brooks Hays   |   May 10, 2016 at 1:20 PM

BRISTOL, England, May 10 (UPI) -- Scientists in Britain have discovered a new way to grow crystals using magnetic fields.

Growing conditions affect the organization of molecules, which affect a crystal's physical properties. Scientists refer to the variation of a crystal's molecular organization as the "polymorph."

Direct control over polymorphism has been long sought after by scientists and notoriously difficult to achieve. But recently, scientists at the University of Bristol were able to influence polymorphism by growing crystals in the presence of strong magnetic fields.

"The application of magnetic fields to intentionally control polymorphism is entirely novel and opens up the possibility of discovering magnetically accessible polymorphs in other crystal systems such as organic solid-state lasers, field-effect transistors and most tantalizingly, pharmaceuticals," researcher Simon Hall, a chemist at Bristol, said in a news release.

Scientists used a magnetic field to successfully manipulate polymorphism during the development of polyaromatic hydrocarbon coronene, a crystal featuring six peri-fused benzene rings. The magnetic field suppressed the crystal's usual polymorph and enabled a new, never-before-seen crystal structure.

Researchers named the new polymorph beta-coronene. The structure offers several novel physical and electrical characteristics, including the optical quality of panchromatic light absorption -- a quality scientists say may prove valuable to solar cell and photovoltaic development.

The breakthrough in polymorphism manipulation was detailed this week in the journal Nature Communications.

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