15 November 2022

Jesper Bendix receive DKK 17 mill. from NNF to investigate crystalline materials

Jesper BendixAdvanced research equipment will help Denmark to become a world leader in studying crystals

Jesper Bendix of the University of Copenhagen is receiving a grant of nearly DKK 17 million to establish an advanced platform in Denmark for the in-depth investigation of crystalline materials.

Researchers in many fields – from medical research to geology – want to be able to study crystals on a micro- or nano scale. This will advance researchers’ knowledge about such topics as materials properties.

Opportunities to routinely carry out this type of research have been limited in Denmark, but this will change following a grant of nearly DKK 17 million awarded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation under its Research Infrastructure Programme to Jesper Bendix, Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen.

The grants under the Programme aim to support and enable the establishment and maintenance of state-of-the-art research infrastructure and equipment to benefit research communities in Denmark. The infrastructure will be accessible not only to the grant recipients but will be open-access to other academic and private research communities in Denmark.

Unique opportunities

The grant will enable Jesper Bendix to purchase equipment to carry out electron diffraction on crystalline materials and to hire a technician to carry out the studies over the next 5 years. Jesper Bendix says that the grant will facilitate unique opportunities not just for him but for researchers throughout Denmark.

“With the establishment of this technology at the University of Copenhagen and similar opportunities at the Technical University of Denmark, Denmark will become a world leader in electron diffraction. This will attract considerable attention not only in Denmark but also internationally,” says Jesper Bendix.

Electron diffraction is a technique for studying structures in crystalline materials with an unprecedented level of detail. The technology has been around for many years, but companies have only recently simplified the technology and commercialised it. Researchers can use this technology to study crystals on scales as small as 100 nanometers, which is on the border between a crystal and a molecule.

Jesper Bendix says that researchers in many fields are broadly interested in learning more about the crystalline structure of various materials.

“Our application has had substantial support from both researchers and industry, all of which are interested in obtaining access to use electron diffraction in their research,” he adds.

Pharmaceutical industry lining up

Drug developers are especially interested in electron diffraction.

Many drugs have a crystalline structure, which helps determine the drug’s properties, such as solubility. Changing this crystalline structure without changing the molecular structure can consciously or inadvertently change how the drug functions in the body. If this happens accidently, a drug may not have time to dissolve and have an effect in the body before it is excreted again.

Jesper Bendix explains that the pharmaceutical industry is already lining up to use the company that fabricates the electron diffraction equipment, since the industry needs to know the structure of drugs to make them as effective as possible.

“We will also notice this interest,” he says.

Geology is another useful field for using electron diffraction. Geologists know of about 6,000 minerals with crystalline structure, but many more may exist. The structural understanding of geology has been limited by the available measurement methods, but having access to electron diffraction equipment in Denmark will enable geologists to understand crystal growth and to find new minerals with potentially useful properties.

“My interest is in fabricating new quantum materials with electrical or magnetic properties. We are therefore often challenged to make crystals that are large enough for us to determine their structure. The opportunity to carry out electron diffraction will enable us to study completely new types of materials,” concludes Jesper Bendix.