Dec 212012

The third meeting of the Red Kite network will be held on Thursday 10th January, 2013 in the Main Lecture Theatre in the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford.  Attendance will be courtesy of the John Fell Oxford University Research Fund.  The meeting will consist of three sessions, each commencing with a half hour Plenary delivered by a leading academic, followed by three shorter talks by younger researchers.

Please check out the program for more details and email Amber L. Thompson (amber.thompson @ BY MONDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER, if you would like to attend the lunch and the drinks reception after the meeting (these will only be available to registered attendees).


Dec 202012

J. Sync. Rad (2013). 20, 200–204. [ doi:10.1107/S0909049512044007 ]

Overlapping absorption edges will occur when an element is present in multiple oxidation states within a material. DetOx is a program for partitioning overlapping X-ray absorption spectra into contributions from individual atomic species and computing the dependence of the anomalous scattering factors on X-ray energy. It is demonstrated how these results can be used in combination with X-ray diffraction data to determine the oxidation state of ions at specific sites in a mixed-valance material, GaCl2 .

Electronic reprints

Publisher’s copy


Nov 292012

As part of the Bragg Centenary Celebrations, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure on “In Our Time” on BBC Radio 4. His guests were Prof. Judith A. K. Howard (University of Durham), Dr. Christopher Hammond (University of Leeds) and Prof. Mike Glazer (University of Oxford).

The program began with the work of Johannes Kepler in the 17th century, and focussed on the work of the father-and-son team the Braggs in 1912.  It also covered aspects of the the work of the German physicist Max von Laue who had proved that X-rays are a form of light waves and that it was possible to scatter these rays using a crystal and some of the most significant scientific findings of the last century – such as revealing the structure of DNA.

The program is available on line from the “In Our Time” website.

Nov 242012

Every year, Oxford Inspires organises an evening of social and cultural events in the centre of Oxford following the theme of Christmas Lights.  A lot of the institutions within the city get involved, and this year that included Amber, who was invited to give a presentation at the Snowflake exhibition held at the History of Science Museum.  The event was held on Friday, 23 November and the Museum opened at 6pm with talks from 7pm in the Gallery (that’s the basement to anyone else, so Amber felt at home).   Activities included:

  • Mirror Snowflakes – Create an infinite variety of symmetrical snowflakes with the help of a pair of mirrors.
  • Paper Crystals – Make your own snowflake decorations for Christmas.
  • Dr. Judith V. Field (Birkbeck College, London), “When Stars of Snow Fell on Kepler’s Coat
  • Dr. Amber L. Thompson (University of Oxford), “Why Is Snow So Beautiful?

The evening was very well attended with a very mixed audience.

Why is Snow So Beautiful?

Nov 012012

Presented by: Vanessa E. Fairbank & Dr. Amber L. Thompson
Research Leader: Dr. Andrew L. Goodwin
Published: Physical Review B

Cubic Cd(CN)2 shows the strongest known isotropic negative thermal expansion (NTE; volume contraction on heating).  Variable-temperature single-crystal X‑ray diffraction suggests there is temperature-dependent off-centering of Cd2+ ions that has the effect of increasing the cadmium coordination volume at low temperatures, providing an alternate mechanism for NTE in this material. These displacements are evident in the residual electron density and the highly-structured diffuse scattering in the experimental X-ray diffraction patterns.  Using Monte Carlo simulations, we have interpreted these patterns in terms of a basic set of “ice-rules” that establish a mapping between the dynamics of Cd(CN)2and proton ordering in cubic ice VII.

Structure of the Month – November 2012

Structure of the Month – November 2012


Oct 292012

This report of Karim’s and Will’s Quizmastery last Wednesday was written by the Royal Blenheim Barman and posted on their website:

The quiz last Wednesday was written Karim & Will, with a little help from Will’s dad (they say tutor, but I’m going with dad). It was their first time setting the Blenheim quiz and they did very well, judging the level accurately, apart from the connection round. We were incredibly well attended with 12 teams taking part, all of which getting gradually annoyed at the compilers sway towards a certain boyband!

The Handout Rounds were ‘Google doodles’, celebrities drawn on toast with Marmite and a ‘Get the Picture’ of the members of the boyband (is boyband 1 or 2 words? – Who cares? – Ed) One Direction. The sound rounds were the top 5 YouTube videos and covers of songs, some of which I’d never heard of. Us oldies did struggle a little.

My favourite question was the ‘if you were’ question of 200m from the 3 Goats Heads, 70m from All Bar 1, 400m from the 4 Candles and 30m from Next 2 Nothing, in which Oxford business would you be? The answer being Pie Minister which would have been obvious if you notice that the numbers in the business stated were 3.142!

The quiz was won controversially by the quiz setters own team (hmmmmmmm?). The cheese won by a regular team who were not strong enough to hold back a very hungry French woman: she ate all their cheese, haha! The money, £180, was also won by Pembroke JCR.

The next quiz is being written by me. It is being held on Hallowe’en so expect it to be themed!

See you Wednesday, true believers!

Oct 102012

Mr. Conor RowleyConor is spending most of his Part II year in Australia with the Cameron Kepert’s Research Group at the University of Sydney. He is working on the in situ analysis of CO2 adsorption in metal-organic frameworks. This involves a specially designed setup allowing the use of single crystal X-ray diffraction to ascertain structural information on CO2 binding in these frameworks. When not in the lab, Conor can be found learning to surf on Bondi Beach.