Rhodes University unveils new state-of-the-art X-ray laboratory for teaching, learning and research

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[L-R] Head of Physics and Electronics Professor Makaiko Chithambo, Dean of Science Professor Tony Booth, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela, Chemistry Lecturer Dr Vincent Smith, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation Professor Peter Clayton, Chemistry Lecturer Professor Rui Krause
[L-R] Head of Physics and Electronics Professor Makaiko Chithambo, Dean of Science Professor Tony Booth, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela, Chemistry Lecturer Dr Vincent Smith, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation Professor Peter Clayton, Chemistry Lecturer Professor Rui Krause

Rhodes University officially unveiled its state-of-the-art X-ray facility this week, which will better prepare its science students for possible future professions.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation Professor Peter Clayton, Dean of Science Professor Tony Booth, Head of Physics and Electronics Professor Makaiko Chithambo, and Chemistry Lecturers Dr Vincent Smith and Professor Rui Krause.

The facility has an all-new Bruker D8 Venture single-crystal X-ray diffractometer equipped with the latest PHOTON II CMOS detector and Mo and Cu microfocus X-ray sources to provide low energy high brilliance X-rays for rapid data collection. It is also furnished with an Oxford Cryostream low-temperature device that allows for small molecule crystal structure determination at low temperature (100-300 K).

The facility also boasts a Bruker D2 2nd Gen Phaser which is a compact desktop X-ray powder diffraction system with a 6-sample changer for rapid data collection (used mainly for bulk phase identification with associated Rietveld refinement software).

Dr Smith said the single-crystal diffractometer was paired with an optical microscope for sample selection, and crystalline quality determination. “All these instruments are important in understanding how materials behave because the instruments provide information about the three-dimensional structure. One cannot design, develop, or manipulate new properties if the understanding at a structural level is absent,” Dr Smith explained.

Dr Smith also stated that the instrument allows for collaboration between several disciplines.

“These instruments are useful in quite a diverse area – for instance, in geology, physics, biochemistry, pharmacy, and chemistry,” he said.

He explained that Rhodes University will be using the instrument for basic research and to train postgraduate and undergraduate students, preparing them for possible future careers. “The students are better trained to understand what they are doing when they learn from a practical perspective rather than only from a theoretical one,” said Dr Smith.   

According to Prof Clayton, it was nothing short of a miracle that Rhodes University managed to secure this equipment. He recalled how the proposal was submitted in early 2020, and after the pandemic hit, everything was delayed. Furthermore, by the time the grant was accepted, the exchange rate had increased drastically

“I’m truly grateful to my colleagues who kept working on acquiring this machine, despite the many challenges,” he said.

According to Prof Mabizela, the way the team handled the challenges speaks to the remarkable tenacity of the University. “This is a great day for the University and a fabulous day for the pursuit of research,” he said. “We must celebrate this day.”

Prof Mabizela believes, without a doubt, that this piece of equipment will further increase the research calibre and capabilities of the University and the knowledge of students who will go out into the world to make it a better place.

“It is my honour to declare the lab, with the new pieces of equipment, open and ready to serve our University, our region, continent, and humanity,” he concluded.

Source:  Communications