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?

Mar 302011

Rowena ScottIn-situ Diamond RingNot content with showing off the eye-catching brilliance of her new diamond engagement ring, final year Inorganic Chemistry student Rowena Scott wanted to reveal the beautiful symmetry of its atomic structure. She recorded an X-ray diffraction pattern from the diamond using one of the Chemistry Department’s new state of the art, SuperNova dual source X‑ray diffractometers.

Rowena’s current research project with Dr Simon Clarke involves the synthesis of iron chalcogenide superconductors. The structures of these materials are then determined using single crystal X-ray diffraction techniques.

Chemical Crystallography Service manager, Dr Amber Thompson said “We see a wide range of materials of varying crystallinity from many research groups in the Department of Chemistry, usually grown at the bottom of glass schlenks or flasks; it’s not often that such a lovely crystal turns up mounted in a band of gold”.

Diffraction pattern of the diamondThe diffracted X-rays were measured while rotating the diamond in an X-ray beam. The resulting diffraction pattern shows the position and intensity of the beams diffracted by the organised structure of carbon atoms in the crystal. The white rings overlaid on the image indicate the angles at which diamond peaks are expected to occur, which agree with the collected data.

Diamond diffracts X-rays so efficiently that the X-ray generator had to be run at 10% of its usual power in order to avoid overloading the X-ray detector.

Dec 202009
A picture of Seizure


A dreary, grey, condemned, 1960s low-rise council flat is an unusual place to find one of the most beautiful pieces of crystallographic art in the UK.  “Seizure” was constructed by transforming the flat into a watertight tank, into which 70,000 litres of hot copper sulphate solution was poured.  After three weeks of patient waiting, and cooling, the mother liquor was removed to reveal a spellbinding, blue, crystal garden. Fortunate visitors to this spectacular exhibit were entranced to behold a magical kingdom of exquisite azure crystals – everyday objects such as light fittings and baths transformed into coruscations of brilliance…