Theoretical and practical single crystal X-ray structure determination

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The aim of the course is to give an introduction to theoretical and practical single crystal X-ray diffraction structure determination. Solid materials are of utmost relevance in a wide range of application areas covering the full breadth of chemical science. Examples of active research at the Department of Chemistry include pharmaceutically active compounds, coordination compounds, homogeneous organometallic catalysts, inorganic and inorganic-organic hybrid materials for catalysis and sorption processes.

The most important initial characterization after synthesis of a new compound is the attempt to obtain information about the structure of the material on an atomic level. Solid materials are divided into two groups, crystalline and amorphous. Crystalline substances have a periodic and regular arrangement of atoms. Their structure can be determined from diffraction data, performed either on single crystals or microcrystalline powders. In the case of large single crystals, crystal structure determination has become a rapid and routine process in the majority of cases.

The main purpose of this course is to provide the participant with the necessary theoretical and practical background knowledge and practical experience to be able to successfully determine the crystal structure from single crystal X-ray diffraction data and be able to present this knowledge in scientific dissemination. To achieve this aim, the course consists of three parts:

1. Theory

The necessary theoretical background about crystal structures, X-ray diffraction and the process of structure determination using diffraction-based techniques is taught in a block course.


2. Exercises

Participants will receive a demonstration of how single crystal X-ray diffraction experiments are performed in practice. Participants will be trained in software used for structure determination and presentation of results. Introduction to the software will be part of the block course, the participants will practice a full structure determination using a provided dataset on their own. There will be a couple of joint sessions to present their results and address questions and problems they may have encountered.


3. Exam that includes performing an actual crystal structure determination

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:




The student is able to

  • Explain the principles of X-ray diffraction and the information contained in diffraction patterns.
  • Understand and describe the structure of crystalline materials.
  • Discuss the principles and steps involved in single crystal structure determinations.




The student is able to

  • Perform (in principle) single crystal X-ray diffraction experiments.
  • Use typical software to analyze and present the data collected in a single crystal X-ray diffraction experiment.
  • Select the appropriate approach for structure solution and refinement (i.e. perform a single crystal structure determination) and summarize it in writing.
  • Present crystal structures in words and figures and identify and describe relevant structural details that merit emphasis.
  • Prepare figures and tables for presentation of single crystal structures.
  • Read and edit electronic files required for electronic dissemination (e.g. submission to databases).
  • Use the Cambridge Structural Database for search and comparison of compounds and structures.


General competence


The student is able to

  • Convey the central content of the subject both in written and verbal form and by use of expressions characteristic for the subject (e.g. summary texts on how the structure determination was performed, structure drawings and tables).
  • Work together in groups and perform practical tasks (software).
  • Interpret information about the structure of compounds and materials.
  • Write summaries of relevant information.
  • Identify and assimilate relevant knowledge from teaching material through lectures, group work and on their own.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction


Place of Instruction

Access to the Course
Access to the course requires admission to a master¿s or PhD programme at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Teaching and learning methods
  • Teaching lectures: Block course (20 h)
  • Demonstration of a single crystal X-ray diffraction experiment
  • Self-practice and colloquium (4-8 h) on practical crystal structure determination
  • Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

    Attendance at the block course, performing self-practice (structure determination of the handed out dataset and preparation of description, tables and figures) and participation in the colloquium sessions.

    The compulsory activities are valid for 3 following semesters.

    Forms of Assessment


    The exam consists of a part with questions about theoretical knowledge and a part where the participant provides the results of a structure determination, which will be evaluated. The data for the structure determination is provided a few days before the exam date so that the participant has time to perform the structure determination and prepare figures, tables and description that will be uploaded during the exam.

    Grading Scale
    Pass /Fail
    Assessment Semester
    Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be arranged at the beginning of the semester.
    Reading List
    The reading list will be available within June 1st for the autumn semester and December 1st for the spring semester
    Course Evaluation
    The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department
    Examination Support Material
    Non-programmable calculator, according to the faculty regulations
    Programme Committee
    The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
    Course Coordinator

    Department of Chemistry owns the course.


    Course Administrator
    The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and Department of Chemistry