Learn about crystallography through watching


Below are listed some interesting video clips, webcasts, television programmes and films that explain crystallography. Click on the large images to download a video file, watch the clip, or be directed to an external website. Click on the smaller images for more information.

A selection of videos from the International Year of Crystallography playlist on YouTube

[Ban Ki-Moon]

UN Secretary General launches IYCr2014

United Nations, 20 January 2014 - Video message by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the launch of the International Year of Crystallography 2014.

"This year marks the centenary of the birth of modern crystallography. We celebrate 100 years of ground-breaking advances.Crystallography is fundamental to understanding the structure of matter. It is critical for materials science, health care, agriculture and biotechnology. Today, crystallography is at the core of structural sciences, revealing the constitution of minerals and the molecules of life, helping scientists to design new-generation materials and life-saving medicine. In recognition of these important contributions, the United Nations General Assembly designated 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography.The goal is to raise awareness about the power of crystals, deepen cooperation and create new partnerships across the globe. Crystallography has an important place as we work for inclusive sustainable development - policies that are good for people and the planet. I thank UNESCO, along with the International Union of Crystallography and all other partners. Thank you for working to help societies harness the full power of sciences for sustainable development. Let us make the Year a great success!"

Category: News & Politics. Duration: 2m 13s
Licence: Standard YouTube Licence

The Royal Institution Crystallography Collection

[celebrating crystallography displays a laser diffraction pattern]

Forbidden crystal symmetry in mathematics and architecture

Revealing forbidden symmetry

Sir Roger Penrose provides a unique insight into the "forbidden symmetry" of his famous penrose tiles and the use of non-repeating patterns in design and architecture. It is a rigorous mathematical theorem that the only crystallographic symmetries are 2-fold, 3-fold, 4-fold, and 6-fold symmetries.

Yet, since the 1970s 5-fold, 8-fold, 10-fold and 12-fold "almost" symmetric patterns have been exhibited, showing that such crystallographically "forbidden symmetries" are mathematically possible and deviate from exact symmetry by an arbitrarily small amount. Such patterns are often beautiful to behold and designs based on these arrangements have now been used in many buildings throughout the world.

In this Ri event Sir Roger Penrose reveals the mathematical underpinnings and origins of these "forbidden symmetries" and other related patterns. His talk is illustrated with numerous examples of their use in architectural design including a novel version of "Penrose tiling" that appears in the approach to the main entrance of the new Mathematics Institute in Oxford, officially opened in late 2013.

The tiling is constructed from several thousand diamond-shaped granite tiles of just two different shapes, decorated simply with circular arcs of stainless steel. The matching of the tiles forces them into an overall pattern which never repeats itself and exhibits remarkable aspects of 5-fold and 10-fold symmetry.

Similar features have been found also in the atomic structures of quasi-crystalline materials. The initial discovery of such material earned Dan Shectman the 2011 Nobel Prize for chemistry, his work having launched a completely novel area of crystallography.

Images of the completed Mathematics Institute in Oxford courtesy of Vanesa Penrose. The filming and production of this event was supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Production by Edward Prosser. Additional camera operation by Mark Billy Svensson. 

Published: 2014
Filmed: 2013. Duration: 58m 13s
Credits: Royal Institution

License: © Royal Institution

The Mystery of the Giant Crystals

[Inside the Naica cave]The film El Misterio de los Cristales Gigantes (The Mystery of the Giant Crystals) has been made freely available by Madrid Scientific Films and Triana Sci & Tech with the support of the International Union of Crystallography as an educational contribution to the International Year of Crystallography 2014. Written and presented by Juan Manuel García Ruiz and directed by Javier Trueba, the film tells the story of the scientific investigation into the nature and properties of the giant gypsum crystals found in a silver mine in Mexico in 2000.


Follow this link to read more about the project or to donate to the work of Triana Sci & Tech

Streaming HD video

Click on the images below to view the film in high definition in English, Spanish, Italian or French.

[Inside the Naica caves]

The Mystery of the Giant Crystals

The Cave of the Crystals (Cueva de los Cristales) in the Naica Mine, Chihuahua, Mexico, houses some of the largest natural crystals ever found. They are selenite, a form of the mineral gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O). Juan Manuel Garcíia Ruiz and his colleagues investigate the conditions under which these huge crystals have grown over the course of thousands of years. The temperatures in the subterranean caverns are over 50°C, and the caves are filled with water containing a variety of minerals leached from the surrounding rocks.

Duration: 50m 53s

© 2014 Trianatech.com - All rights reserved

[Inside the Naica caves]

El Misterio de los Cristales Gigantes

La Cueva de los Cristales en la mina de Naica, Chihuahua, México, alberga algunos de los más grandes cristales naturales que se han encontrado. Son selenito, una forma del yeso mineral (CaSO4.2H2O). Juan Manuel García Ruiz y sus colegas investigan las condiciones en que estos enormes cristales han crecido a lo largo de miles de años. Las temperaturas en las cavernas subterráneas son más de 50° C, y las cuevas están llenas de agua que contiene una variedad de minerales lixiviados de las rocas circundantes.

Duration: 50m 54s

© 2014 Trianatech.com - All rights reserved

[Inside the Naica caves]

Il Mistero dei Cristalli Giganti

La Grotta dei Cristalli (Cueva de los Cristales) nella miniera di Naica, Chihuahua, Messico, ospita alcuni dei più grandi cristalli naturali mai trovati. Si tratta di cristalli di selenite, una particolare forma di gesso (CaSO4.2H2O). Juan Manuel García Ruiz e i suoi colleghi indagano sulle condizioni in cui questi enormi cristalli sono cresciuti nel corso di migliaia di anni. La temperatura nelle caverne sotterranee è oltre 50° C, e le grotte sono riempite con acqua contenente una varietà di minerali lisciviati dalle rocce circostanti.

Duration: 50m 58s

© 2014 Trianatech.com - All rights reserved

[Inside the Naica caves]

Le Mystère des Cristaux Géants

La Grotte des Cristaux (Cueva de los Cristales) dans la mine de Naica, Chihuahua, Mexique, abrite quelques-uns des plus grands cristaux naturels jamais trouvés. Ils sont sélénite, une forme de gypse minéral (CaSO4.2H2O). Juan Manuel García Ruiz et ses collègues enquêtent sur les conditions dans lesquelles ces énormes cristaux ont grandi au cours de milliers d'années. Les températures dans les cavernes souterraines sont plus de 50° C, et les grottes sont remplis avec de l'eau contenant une variété de minéraux lessivés des roches environnantes.

Duration: 50m 58s

© 2014 Trianatech.com - All rights reserved

Educational videos

[NodS N-methyltransferase]

Celebrating the International Year of Crystallography with methylation of Nod Factor

Each year, ~150 million tonnes of atmospheric nitrogen are converted to plant nutrients (eliminating the load of artificial fertilizers) by soil bacteria, called rhizobia, that live in symbiosis with legume plants, such as lupine. The association is highly specific and before it starts, the symbionts must recognize each other via exchange of precise chemical signals. The plant's root produces characteristic flavonoids, while the bacterial 'business card', called nodulation factor (NF), is an oligosaccharide molecule with a unique pattern of strange chemical decorations. The nodulation factor is named very adequately: once recognized, it will induce formation of root nodules, to be colonized by the bacterial partner. Rhizobia have unique biosynthetic pathways to produce NF, involving about a dozen of specialized proteins. One of them is NodS, an enzyme that decorates the Nod factor with a methyl group (CH3), transferred from a donor molecule called SAM. Dr. Ozgur Cakici, working at the Center for Biocrystallographic Research in Poznan (Poland), discovered the crystal structure of NodS and was able to elucidate its enzymatic mechanism, so elegantly shown in the movie. The enzyme starts with an open conformation, which allows docking of the SAM molecule. Upon SAM binding, the protein conformation changes dramatically, burying the donor molecule and forming a docking platform for the NF acceptor. When the NF molecule completes the tripartite complex, the methyl group gets transferred, and the products can depart the enzyme. The last component to leave is SAH, a molecule generated from SAM by methyl group removal. The open NodS molecule is ready to start a new catalytic cycle.

To solve the structure of NodS and of its complex with SAH, Ozgur first genetically modified bacterial cells for production of the protein in a variant containing selenium (Se) atoms. Crystals of that protein were taken for diffraction experiments to a synchrotron center that provided an extremely powerful X-ray beam with tunable wavelength. The experimental data were the basis for structure determination, which utilized the method of multiwavelength anomalous diffraction (MAD).

Dr. Cakici's results were published in Acta Crystallographica (Acta Cryst. F64, 1149-1152, 2008) and in the Journal of Molecular Biology (J. Mol. Biol. 404, 874-889, 2010).

Duration: 1m 58s
© Center for Biocrystallographic Research, Poznan


Historical videos

[W. L. Bragg giving Royal Institution Lecture]

Sir Lawrence Bragg on crystals and gems

A series of six outside broadcasts filmed at the Royal Institution in the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Nature of Things was presented by William Lawrence Bragg with the assistance of Bill Coates. This is an extract from Crystals and Gems, the last show in the first series, exploring the properties and molecular structure of crystals.

Coates recalled Bragg once remarking to him: "never talk about science, show it to them", which is what The Nature of Things set out to do. Like the Christmas Lectures, the programmes were structured around a series of demonstrations and were filmed as a lecture in the Ri's theatre. Although the filming took place with an audience of adults, the series was aimed at children and broadcast on children's television. As he states at the end of the series, he hoped it would provoke "deep interest in the science of everyday things".

Broadcast on BBC Television in 1959. Duration: 17m 22s
© The Royal Institution. Credits: The Royal Institution /BBC