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‘Robot’ boosts university’s research strengths

A University of St Andrews scientist has been awarded just under £1 million to boost the School of Chemistry’s research and teaching capabilities.

Professor Alexandra Slawin has been awarded £808,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Much of the University’s chemistry and materials research depends on X- ray studies to determine the shape of the molecules that are being developed. Important applications such as new drugs, lightweight batteries, environmentally friendly chemistry and gas storage (associated with green energy production) depend on these studies.

The new money will provide a robotic system for use in X-ray measurements. The aim is to completely automate processes which currently take several days and needs constant monitoring and human input. The robot will enable measurements to be made 24 hours a day, significantly improving productivity. The robot is the same type as those used to manufacture cars and allows sample mounting to an accuracy of microns.

Professor Slawin explained, “X-ray crystallography is extremely important and the structural chemist’s most important tool for obtaining accurate and precise information on the structure of a material. Understanding the shape of molecules allows improved design in properties for, for example, new pharmaceuticals, better plastics, suitable systems for cleaning up waste etc.

“Currently, the X-ray labs in the School of Chemistry are amongst the world’s most well equipped as a consequence of previous grant successes but these new developments will place St Andrews at the absolute forefront in research”.

Essentially, the technique involves shooting X-rays at a crystal and measuring the diffraction very precisely. The measurements are then mathematically treated to get a picture of the molecule.

In a further boost for X-ray crystallography, a new $150,000 benchtop instrument which is designed for teaching and research will be installed in June. This equipment will enable the School of Chemistry to offer the most advanced teaching to complement the outstanding research facilities.

Alex Slawin is Professor of Chemical Crystallography and Director of the Molecular Structure Laboratory at St Andrews and the University’s first female Chemistry Professor.

ENDS

For further information, please call Professor Slawin – telephone 01334 467280 or email amzs@st- and.ac.uk

Issued by Beattie Media – www.beattiegroup.com On behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information, please contact Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk; Ref: press releases/slawin View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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