McMaster University
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The McMaster Analytical X-ray Diffraction Facility (MAX)

The McMaster Analytical X-ray Diffraction Facility (MAX) is a service, research, and teaching laboratory operated by the BIMR and the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. It is a leader in materials characterization by X-ray diffraction in Canada.

The most unique feature of MAX is the regular use of visualization of experimental 3-dimensional diffraction patterns from single crystals, nanocrystal thin films, or polycrystalline solids using technology developed at McMaster (MAX3D – Britten, Guan). This capability vastly improves our ability to identify and interpret the structural and orientational features of the materials being studied. It has enabled us to contribute internationally to the development of texture analysis of materials and to reciprocal space mapping techniques.

Another distinguishing feature of MAX is that it is truly a cooperative effort among various Faculties (Science, Engineering), Departments (Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science and Engineering, Engineering Physics, Biochemistry) and individual Faculty members (Mozharivskyj, Gaulin, Schrobilgen, Guarne, Junop, McDermid, etc.). State of the art instrumentation is procured through NSERC and CFI funding and either located in the MAX facility or made available to the MAX crystallographers under the umbrella of the BIMR. Not only does this allow more wide-spread and efficient use of the instrumentation in a safe and well maintained environment, but it promotes the interdisciplinary communication, through the staff crystallographers, that results in new types of analyses and improved methods of performing both routine and unique analyses.

A third distinguishing feature of MAX is the physical layout of the facility. Unlike most University X-ray labs, MAX is set up with a control room overlooking a restricted experimental floor. This allows the general users of the facility to sit with the crystallographer and help design, control, and monitor their experiments, as well as observe (in 3D), study, process and interpret their data. Students or Faculty are encouraged to become independent users of the diffractometers. Most users are trained on the software so that they can process and publish their data. This open setup allows us to involve industrial clients and undergraduate students in diffraction analyses, and has provided a popular stop for high school and undergraduate outreach tours.

For more than 20 years the Manager of the MAX Diffraction Facility has been Dr. J. F. Britten, who is  Chair of Canadian National Committee for Crystallography, a former Council member of the American Crystallographic Association, and Chair of the International Program Committee (IPC) for the 2014 Montreal Congress of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr). Although he is employed by the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, he has been given the freedom to expand the lab’s repertoire from routine chemical crystallography, powder phase analysis and Rietveld refinements. Through collaborations with McMaster (and other) researchers in Materials Science and Engineering (Niewczas, Wilkinson, Botton) , Engineering Physics (Mascher, Preston, Lapierre), Physics (Gaulin, Dabkowska, Kim(UofT)), Mechanical Engineering (McDermid, Jain), Chemical Engineering (Thompson, Rohani(UWO)), Chemistry (Schrobilgen, Barbier, Greedan, McCarry, Frank(UVic)), and the Research and High Performance Computing Support group (Guan) novel approaches for sample handling, sample mounting, non-ambient conditions, data collection , reciprocal space analysis, texture analysis, thin film analysis, monitoring phase changes, and solving difficult single crystal structures have been developed. Expertise in new fields, such as ab initio structure solution from powder diffraction and incommensurate scattering analysis has been acquired.

Graduate level courses in X-ray diffraction, chemical crystallography, and XRD2/XRD3 materials analysis have been developed, attracting students from Waterloo, Guelph, Brock and York Universities.

The MAX staff includes Dr. Hilary Jenkins, a chemical crystallographer shared with Chemistry’s NMR Facility, and Victoria Jarvis, M.A.Sc., who has helped develop and perform the XRD2/XRD3 analyses.


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