Design of a Device to Grow Organic Single Crystals for Use in X-ray Diffraction Experiments


Pfizer Team: Jinglin Huang, Najneen Sultana, Yujo Yu

2013-2014: In collaboration with Pfizer, this student team designed a simple and flexible laboratory device for medicinal chemists to identify conditions and reliably grow single crystals in a short time period. X-ray diffraction is an important tool for characterizing new active pharmaceutical ingredients, but it requires that defect-free, individual crystals of appropriate size and high purity be grown from milligram quantities of expensive material.

After conducting extensive literature research on crystallization methods, the team developed a conceptual design for an apparatus and procedure. They conducted experiments to evaluate their preliminary ideas, which led to significant modifications. The final design guides the user to select containers, solvents, and conditions for initial solubility tests. Then, based on demonstrated solubility range and solvent properties, a specific crystallization technique and conditions is selected to grow the single crystals. An effective new crystallization method, cooling using a cold-point tip, was developed and included as a component of the final design.

The final report delivered to Pfizer included an explanation of the process and results used to develop the recommended design and a failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) to facilitate the implementation and training of laboratory personnel.