A humble crystal that’s the salt of the earth

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 09, 2018

Robert Krickl’s model of common salt at the 24th Congress and General Assembly of the International Union of Crystallography

In addition to making food items palatable, common salt or sodium chloride (NaCl) has had a special place in science and history.

It is the first crystal, whose structure was analysed using X-ray diffraction pattern over a century ago by the Braggs (father and son), Willian and Lawrence.

Mahatma Gandhi used the Salt Satyagraha to galvanise the common people against the British.

3D model

In 2015, Robert Krickl, a crystallographer of repute built the world’s biggest model of common salt and unveiled it in the City Hall of Vienna. The model, which entered the Guinness Book of Records, shows the largest section of a crystal’s atomic structure ever to be physically modelled true to scale in 3D. It roughly weighs 680 kg, has 38,880 balls and 10.5 km of connecting sticks.

His mission is to popularise Science attracting people through the gigantic model of the versatile common salt we use daily to spice up our dishes.

Magnified wonder

Krickl has brought the model of the common salt to the 24th Congress and General Assembly of the International Union of Crystallography, which is under way here. Its the first time that the model is coming out of Europe and into India. He has toured some European cities to communicate the beauty of nature and introduce science to the general public, especially young people, he told the gathering.

“I want to show – to visualise – how our world looks when it is magnified about a billion times. This discovery had a major impact on science and our understanding of the world. It led to the determination of the structure of DNA (Deoxyribonucleac acid) of viruses, proteins, and on the other hand, of materials used in our daily lives,” he said.

Gautam R Desiraju, Chairman of the Congress, said crystallography was playing a significant role in every discipline from materials to biology and had a strong presence in the industrial sector applications as well. A special session, ‘Salt of the Earth’, delineated the various aspects of this unique compound called common salt.

Published on August 24, 2017

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