IYCr OpenLab Ghana final report

The IUCr-UNESCO OpenLab Ghana, organized within the frame of the International Year of Crystallography 2014 in collaboration with UNESCO and IUCr, was held on June 9th to 12th and took place at the Centre for African Wetlands, Ebenezer Laing Road, on the campus of the University of Ghana in Accra. The OpenLab was organized in partnership with PANalytical B.V., F.Malawi Engineering Co. Ltd.

The event consisted of 4 days of training in X-ray powder diffraction, consisting of presentations, hands-on sessions on software and practical sections on the Empyrean, which was recently installed at the University of Ghana in the Department of Physics.

Thirty powder diffraction enthusiasts were selected and attended the event celebrating IYCr2014, including PhD students, young and senior researchers and a few professionals from industry. Most of the attendees were from Ghana, though other west African countries were represented: Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia, Burkina Faso.

The OpenLab logistics and organization was carried out jointly by PANalytical B.V., F.Malawi Engineering Co. Ltd., and the Department of Physics at the University of Ghana in Accra. 

The scientific lectures delivered by Prof Gilberto Artioli (UniversitĂ  di Padova, Italy) included the nature of X-rays and their interaction with matter, basics of crystallography and diffraction, the experimental geometries for powder diffraction, data interpretation (including phase identification, available software, and databases) and introduction to full profile refinement. A few advanced applications were also shown, with focus on materials science and mineral resources.

Dr Marco Sommariva (PANalytical) covered most of the applied aspects such as the details of instrumental components, calibration, and practical data collection. Quantitative phase analysis was also introduced.

Extensive hands on laboratories involving data collection on the available instrumentation and demonstrations on data treatment and analysis were followed with extreme interest. All the attendees showed to be really eager to learn and the participation was very interactive. Highly positive feedback was expressed during the whole event about both the lectures and the practical sessions.  

Both lecturers promised to remain in contact to respond to further questions as a follow up to the course, although the delicate issue of free-software availability and databases public distribution in developing countries is a general issue to be faced at the international level. A special effort was devoted during the OpenLab to present and operate freely available software, such as GSAS, and open access databases, such as COD, in the attempt to direct the attendees towards independent crystallographic activities.

Overall it has been a highly rewarding experience, both for the lecturers and for the audience. The general impression is that the spirit and aims of IYCr2014 were perfectly targeted.

Gilberto Artioli