CrystalGrower is a tool to develop a greater understanding of how crystals grow at the nanoscale through simulation of crystal habit and surface topography that, in turn, helps predict and control functionality.
Crystals are used in almost every technology that relies on a solid to provide functionality. For example, crystals are used in the electronic components in a computer or a laser, all pharmaceutical medicines in solid form, catalysts used in the chemicals industry for almost every chemical transformation, materials used for drug delivery, gas storage, wastewater clean-up and much more.
Most of these crystals are produced synthetically, grown in the laboratory to high degree of purity and perfection. Consequently, understanding and controlling how the crystals grow is of utmost importance.
CrystalGrower, developed at The University of Manchester, is the first software available capable of simulating how ANY crystal grows at the molecular level. This gives unprecedented insight into the fine details of the growth mechanism and has the potential to help industry and academia better understand and control their crystal growth protocols.
Any minor improvement to an industrial process that is producing megatonnes of crystals can be a major cost saving. There is no direct competitor for this methodology at present.
Crystalline material with functionality, such as silicon chips in computers, pharmaceutical medicines or catalysts, relies on the quality of the crystal in order to perform the necessary function.
For example, when you are sold a drug by the pharmaceutical industry, it must not only be pure in order not to cause side effects, but it must also have the correct crystal morphology. This is usually well defined and results from the natural process of growth of the crystal.
When a drug is administered, either orally or intravenously, the solid must dissolve at the correct rate in order to be delivered before it passes out of the body, but the rate of this dissolution depends on the shape of the crystal. Controlling the shape is a very difficult process because the crystal always wants to form in a certain shape and making other, preferable shapes requires intervention at the molecular scale.