A new national X-ray crystallography service is being set up at Southampton University to support and develop research excellence in the physical sciences as well as chemistry and biochemistry.

The facility will enable academics from across the UK to study chemical structures at the scale of electrons, atoms and molecules.

Funding of £3.57m is being provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to deliver the service over the next five years.

Dr Simon Coles, director of the EPSRC National Crystallography Service, said: ’The new centre will demonstrate best practice in crystallography, developing techniques, software and instrumentation, in addition to handling the most demanding samples that the community needs to investigate.’

Crystallography is concerned with the scattering of beams of X-rays from crystals. Analysis of the scattered rays enables the determination of fundamental chemical structures.

The method is used to determine structures and properties for a range of applications such as gas storage materials, catalysts, pharmaceutical drug candidates, sensors, organic electronics, enzymes and proteins.

The new facility, based in the university’s School of Chemistry, will build on the existing national crystallography service and will have a strong research relationship with Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire.