Opening ceremony, UNESCO Paris, 20 January 2014

Gao Song, President of Chinese Crystallographic Association

Crystallography in China

Song Gao
President of Chinese Crystallographic Association


I present crystallography in China (mainland), its past, present and future. The study of crystallography had a difficult time before the 1970s, due to the environment and the poor available conditions for research. However, the pioneers successfully founded laboratories and organizations, trained students and researchers, and determined the crystal structure of insulin in high resolution, the greatest achievement during that period.

The last 20 years of the 20th century witnessed rapid development of crystallography in China, which covered wide research fields. Chinese scientists were able to contribute series of nonlinear optical crystals like BBO and LBO to the world; they developed the theory and applications of dielectric superlattices, helped to confirm the existence of quasi-crystals and developed direct methods. Synchrotron radiation facilities and neutron sources were under construction during this time.

Since 2000, the development and improvement of laboratory instrumentation and the availability of domestic synchrotron radiation facilities (Beijing and Shanghai) have allowed Chinese crystallographers to study various systems, from macromolecules to superconductors. Chinese structural biologists have revealed the structures and functions of proteins or protein complexes related to human diseases such as SARS, HIV and avian influenza, as well as structures and functions of light-harvesting complexes, the mechanism behind apoptosis and so on. For small molecules, Chinese chemists and crystallographers have explored a great variety of functional (magnetic, porous, optical, dielectric, etc.) molecule-based materials and their crystal engineering, with these studies making a significant contribution to CCDC. China has developed KBBF, another important and practical nonlinear optical crystal used for producing deep ultra-violet laser. Powder X-ray diffraction has been used to characterize new superconductors, minerals and to solve structures of complicated zeolites. Electron microscopy has been used to study the structures of biological macromolecular complexes, as well as oxides, intermetallic compounds and zeolites. Drug crystallography has started to develop in China. The future of crystallography in China looks bright. Today, the Chinese Crystallographic Society counts 1500 members.


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