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The Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ-CERCA)

ICIQ inaugurates the first electron diffractometer in Europe, consolidating as a global reference in chemical research

This atom-level structure analysis equipment allows significant advances in scientific research and materials study

ICIQ celebration

Tarragona, 20 June 2023 – The Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ-CERCA) has celebrated the inauguration of the first electron diffractometer in Europe. This milestone represents significant progress in scientific research and consolidates ICIQ as a global benchmark in the field of chemistry.

The new electron diffraction equipment, XtaLAB Synergy-ED, with a total cost of 1.8 million euros, could analyze atomic-level structures from nanocrystals. This innovative equipment employs an electron beam, allowing crystal analysis up to a million times smaller, opening the doors to the study of structures of compounds that had previously been inaccessible. This type of analysis is essential in research and industry and has diverse applications.

For example, many drugs, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, are composed of crystals. With the electron diffractometer, it will be possible to investigate the molecular structure of drugs that had not been studied so far, encouraging the development of new formulations, and improving the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments.

ICIQ celebration

In addition, this technology will also find application in other areas where crystals are present such as paints, electronic tools and even eggshell. Accurate analysis of the crystal structure of these materials will enable a better understanding of their properties and the development of more efficient and sustainable solutions.

Up to now, this type of analysis was performed primarily with X-rays, in large laboratories or large installations such as synchrotrons. With the electron diffractometer installed at ICIQ, researchers will have access to an advanced tool directly within their reach, encouraging boundary-pushing research and the application of science in various industrial areas.

With the incorporation of this instrument into its service portfolio, ICIQ continues to reaffirm its commitment to scientific excellence and cutting-edge research. In this regard, Prof. Emilio J. Palomares, director of ICIQ, commented: “We are very pleased to have inaugurated this pioneering electron diffractometer in Europe. This new technology will enable researchers to gain a deeper understanding of materials at atomic level and will be attractive to researchers from outside and companies that want to go into the matter in greater depth. We are delighted to make this advanced tool available, reaffirming our commitment to science and consolidating our role as a global benchmark in the field of chemical research,” he added.

ICIQ celebration

Dr. Eduardo C. Escudero-Adán, Manager of ICIQ’s Materials Characterization Department, argues that "the diffractometer is not a prototype, but a perfectly finished instrument that meets the expectations we had about the technique". In addition, he adds: "The supplier company supports us in order to develop new applications and make the most out of our researchers' research."

During the opening ceremony, members from Rigaku and JEOL, companies that have collaborated in the development of the instrument, were present. During the opening ceremony, members from Rigaku and JEOL, companies that have collaborated in the development of the instrument, were present. Mr. Kanda, Deputy General Manager & Head of Single Crystal at Rigaku Corporation welcomed the success of the instrument and hopes it will contribute to the discovery of new research findings. Moreover, the event was attended by Cristina Espa, coordinator of the Severo Ochoa and María de Maeztu accreditation management team and head of scientific equipment and infrastructure of the State Research Agency (AEI), who highlighted the possibilities of the diffractometer for the whole Spanish scientific community and was pleased with the possibilities that the instrument will provide for research. For his part, Roger Cabezas, project manager at CERCA, was proud that a CERCA center can enjoy this unique equipment and make it available to researchers and other companies to promote innovation.

In fact, ICIQ has made during 2023 significant investment of around 3 million euros in state-of-the-art analytical technology. This investment will allow researchers to use a wide variety of advanced analytical techniques and will offer comprehensive solutions for large-scale scientific and industrial projects.

The equipment is part of the EQC2021-006956-P project, funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and by the European Union “NextGenerationEU” PRTR.

For more information on the electron diffractometer, visit this link:


The Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ-CERCA) is a leading institution in the field of chemistry committed to solve major social and economic challenges such as climate change and the sustainable supply of raw materials and renewable energies. Recognized with two Severo Ochoa Accreditations of Excellence, the Institute hosts 330 researchers organized in 15 research groups working on catalysis, renewable energies and computational chemistry. As January of 2023, ICIQ counts with 6 ICREA Professorships and 25 European Research Council grants, being an attractive research center in the chemical field. Located in Tarragona, close to the most important chemical hub in Southern Europe, ICIQ fosters collaboration with industry, transferring the knowledge and technology generated at the institute to promote the generation of new patents and spin-offs. Another key pillar of ICIQ is preparing the future generation of scientists by offering high-quality training from engaging youngsters to postdoctoral researchers. ICIQ is a CERCA center and a member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST). For more information © 2023. All rights reserved.

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Marina Vives Blanco
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