Launch of International Year of Crystallography at UNESCO

The opening ceremony of the International Year of Crystallography will be held at UNESCO Headquarters on 20 and 21 January. The Year, organized jointly by UNESCO and the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), aims to increase awareness of a field of research little known to the public although its contribution to modern science is major.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, will open the ceremony alongside the President of the International Union of Crystallography, Gautam R. Desiraju, and Morocco’s Vice-Minister of Higher Education and Research, Soumaia Benkhaldoun, among others. Subjects to be addressed during the two days will include, Scientific advances linked to crystallography and its potential for development, notably in emerging nations; future applications of crystallography; and its relations to Islamic art and architecture.

Three regional summit meetings will take place during the Year: in Karachi (Pakistan), 28 to 30 April; Campinas (Brazil), 21 to 24 September; and Bloemfontein (South Africa), 15 to 17 October. These meetings are to serve as platforms for exchange between decision-makers and scientists and are intended to favour the development of crystallography research.

Crystallography demonstration laboratories (open labs) will be set up throughout the year in universities around the world*. The laboratories will be equipped with diffractometers, measuring instrument used to analyse the structure of a material, made available by their manufacturers free of charge. These open labs will be used to stimulate international scientific cooperation and train scientists in the use these instruments, as well as carrying out experiments in the presence of students.

A crystal growing competition will also be open to secondary school students all over the world. UNESCO and IUCr will provide interested classes with teaching kits. The competition involves using a saturated saline solution to grow a single crystal with the purpose of obtaining the largest, purest and most beautiful crystal possible.

Crystallography, a science the general public is largely unaware of, studies the composition and structure of crystals. The discovery of X-rays in the early 20th century made it possible to observe the nuclear and molecular structure of crystals and materials paving the way for modern crystallography. On the crossroads of physics, chemistry and biology, as well as mathematics, crystallography has had numerous applications in the agro-food industry and pharmaceutics as well as technology, allowing, for example, for the development of liquid crystal screens.

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography. UNESCO, the only UN organization with a mandate covering basic sciences, was charged with the coordination of this Year in cooperation with IUCr.


*Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Morocco, the Netherlands, South Africa , Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay.

More about the International Year of Crystalography

Brochure about the Year (PDF)

Media contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service: +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64,