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Sketches of Laboratories

Monash University

Melbourne, Australia

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Monash University - December 1995

The X-ray crystallography laboratory at Monash University is part of the Chemistry Department and began with the appointment of Bryan Gatehouse to the department in January 1965. An 'apprenticeship' with the late A.D. (Dave) Wadsley in the early 1960's resulted in the structure of the high-temperature form of niobium pentoxide being determined and a gift of a PW1008 generator, a Wiessenberg goniometer, and a Debye-Scherrer camera, being made by CSIRO. This equipment became the beginnings of crystallography in the Chemistry Department.

At the time- the late 1960's and early 1970's the main crystallographic work was that on mixed-metal oxides such as alkali metal molybdates, tungstates, niobates and tantalates. A number of structures determined in the latter two groups were using crystals supplied by Dr. R. S. (Bob) Roth from his group at the then, National Bureau of Standards (now N.I.S.T.) in the U.S.A.. Bob has visited and worked in our laboratory on a number of occasions.

The pace increased with the provision of two more PW1008's and Weissenberg goniometers together with the light boxes necessary for the measurement of intensities. Computing in the early 1960's was done on SILLIAC in
Sydney, subsequently at Fishermen’s Bend on the Elliott 803 and then on a CDC 3200 in the Computer Centre at Monash University.

With the extension of the buildings of the Chemistry Department in the early 1970's, $63,000.00 was made available for the purchase a single crystal diffractometer - the Philips PW1100 was selected even though we had to wait upwards of two years for the production model to arrive. This machine has served us well and although at the time of writing we are having trouble with one of the discrete components on a board in the interface, I am confident that it will run for some years to come. It must be admitted that the drive program is still on paper tape!

In May 1989 the second diffractometer, a Nicolet, arrived in response to the demand for more and more structures - data collection can be carried out from room temperature down to -100 C. The crystallography 'Service' is run by Dr. Gary Fallon. Gary nurses the diffractometers, looks after the software, rejects crystals firmly when necessary and provides the necessary information for publication of the results. The major program used for many years has been that by George Sheldrick- SHELX, of various years.

By far the majority of structures determined in the laboratory at Monash University are of the coordination or organometallic type reflecting the interests of staff mainly in the inorganic area. Over the years many organic and mixed metal oxides structures have also been determined - again reflection the interests of other staff members.

With the appointment recently of Professors Raston and Bond, added impetus has been given to the upgrading of our facilities. Colin Raston enabled the provision of a Silicon Graphics computer together with the TeXsan software and it is likely that the rate at which we are able to collect data will undergo a transformation in the not too distant future.

Structure determination is alive and well at Monash University but with the passing of time crystallography is slipping away from us.

Bryan Gatehouse

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Please feel free to send any queries, comments or suggestions to: bws@crystal.uwa.edu.au