Rensselaer boasts of new state-of-the-art X-ray diffractometer to support regional science and technology research


Newswise – TROY, NY – Thanks to a Major Research Instrumentation Award of $304,084 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is now home to a state-of-the-art single crystal X-ray diffractometer. The grant was awarded to a team of faculty led by Edwin Fohtung, associate professor of materials science and engineering.

“This instrument is capable of determining atomic and molecular structure in a wide class of materials,” Fohtung said. “They include hard condensed matter systems such as crystalline solids, metals, insulators and semiconductors and soft matter systems such as biological materials, proteins, organometallic complexes and inorganic compounds.”

Hard and soft condensed matter systems consist of regular, repeating arrangements of atoms that determine their properties. This instrument can accurately measure distances between atoms, as well as bond angles and bond lengths for atoms bonded to each other.

With this modern X-ray diffractometer, new and improved courses can be offered at Rensselaer on nanoscale X-ray scattering and imaging, protein structure determination, and experimental organic and inorganic chemistry that involve practical training in single crystal characterization methods. Approximately 10-15 post-docs, 80 graduate students and 65 undergraduate students at Rensselaer will use the lab over the next two years, many of whom are underrepresented minorities in STEM.

“It has taken several months to get this lab together, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities it presents,” said Peter Bonitatibus, professor of practical chemistry and director of the lab. “We will be able to analyze molecules that have far-reaching applications.”

Research and undergraduate programs at Union College, Skidmore College, Fairfield University and other smaller colleges and universities will also have access to this revolutionary tool.

“We at Rensselaer are excited to acquire this powerful X-ray diffractometer which will facilitate the characterization of new molecules and materials, and drive the development of solutions spanning healthcare, energy, next-generation computing “beyond silicon,” and more,” said Curt M. Breneman, dean of the School of Science. “Students, scientists and engineers across the region will benefit from this new research and teaching resource.”

Along with Bonitatibus, KV Lakshmi, professor of chemistry and chemical biology and director of the Baruch ’60 Center for Biochemical Solar Energy Research, and Jian Shi, associate professor of materials science and engineering, are co-principal investigators for the NSF award.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s premier technological research university. Rensselaer comprises five schools, over 30 research centers, over 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a vibrant community of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners and one Nobel laureate of physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on solving global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. For more information, visit

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