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Small Molecule Crystallography Center @ ETH Zürich

Dr. Michael Wörle, Head and Dr. Nils Trapp, Senior Scientist
Small Molecule Crystallography Center, ETH Zürich

Our users here at the Small Molecule Crystallography Center include inorganic, organic and pharmaceutical chemists as well as material scientists. Consequently, the samples could not be more varied, and our queues are always full. We already had excellent, versatile, routine diffractometers with Cu and Mo microfocus sources at hand, including Synergy-S systems, but no high-end instrument to tackle the most challenging samples. Typically, these would be tiny crystals of very light compounds that require absolute structure determination, sensitive and tiny MOF (metal-organic framework) crystals, or supramolecular compounds. Additionally, the new diffractometer should be able to handle routine samples in times of high workload, especially those that would require an overnight or weekend slot to measure on a microfocus source system.

We ultimately acquired an XtaLAB Synergy-R with a HyPix-Arc 150° detector and automated goniometer head, because it ticked all the boxes and delivered impressive performance in our test measurements. It blew our routine diffractometers out of the water, making a 2-hour job of a sample we could not even measure to full resolution at home, and running the usual standard samples in a few minutes. Copper radiation coupled with the HyPix delivers ideal efficiency, and the curved detector allows all kinds of extra strategy shenanigans. The beam size is a very good compromise, any smaller and it would be too hard to prepare the crystals by hand. The automated goniometer head speeds up sample screening even more, and makes it viable for novice users to quickly center such small samples. The software is easy to use, but has all the expert options available for pro operators to fully exploit the machine's many capabilities. The rotating anode is designed for easy maintenance and comes with a very good service concept that should mostly eliminate downtimes.

Rigaku customer and software support has always been great for us, so I believe our services will benefit from this system for a very long time. They listen, and it shows in the countless improvements in hardware, software and service over the years.  As a side note, the source runs surprisingly quiet, and ramps up from the off state within a couple of minutes. Usage is basically the same as other Synergy instruments, but be prepared to put more effort into sample selection and cleaning, because this machine delivers massive performance and even tiny impurities will emerge on the diffraction pattern. This is of course a huge advantage when dealing with small twin fractions. We had not worked with a lab rotating anode in 10 years, and were mind blown by its raw performance in such a small package - an excellent preparation microscope is an absolute must because the sample size drops so dramatically. The Synergy-R is a fantastic machine and we would unconditionally recommend scheduling a demo, if your institution would like to amplify their lab's capabilities with a high-end diffractometer.