ICCOSS XX: A colourful start

Hello from Bangalore! I  have to say I’m pretty excited to be here, both because of the conference programme and the location. This is my first time in India, and  although, admittedly, I have only been here 2 days, it is easy to see why Bangalore is called the ‘Garden City’ – magnificent trees and luxuriant vegetation everywhere . This is even more true when it comes to our conference venue, the Indian Institute of Science, which has enormous charm. Our Convener, Guru Row, told us yesterday in the opening remarks that the Institute is now becoming a College, and will be welcoming undergraduate students in just three weeks – now, this is a place I wouldn’t mind going to university!

Yesterday went on with a tightly packed schedule (this is, after all, a conference on the organic solid state – ahem) and a great line up of speakers. We heard a lot about molecular structure of solids, and how to approach their structure-property relationship. Properties, and in turn applications, are increasingly becoming the focus of investigations, yet at the same time to look at properties it is crucial to look at structures in fine details.

This is no easy task. As J Moorthy puts it, “small and simple molecules – especially ones that participate in hydrogen bonding, typically have large and complex crystal structures”. He illustrated crystal packing interactions through a picture from Gulliver’s Travels: “weak yet powerful”.

Talking about properties, a pretty sought after one is the presence of cavities for further host-guest chemistry. Tony Coleman shared with us his definition of porosity – very similar to Len Barbour‘s – “things go in, things go out”, of non-porosity “nothing comes in, nothing comes out”, and of multi-porosity “things go in, things come out a different way”. We also heard a lot about co-crystals, and how they’re very useful in pharmaceuticals – for example crystallising a drug with another molecule can improve its stability and solubility – but are proving trickier than they seemed. In a nutshell, their properties are unpredictable.

In any case, we’re seeing a lot of pretty, and colourful, X-ray structures. This isn’t surprising in a conference on this topic – but did you know that X-ray crystallography came out first of CNN’s ‘top 10 modern discoveries’? We heard this from Mike Zaworotko.

Unfortunately I don’t have time to tell you more about the sessions – although I wouldn’t risk writing too many details about the session on charge densities, a great way to investigate a structure in its finest details but that involves a lot equations – I’m on my way to another day looking just as busy and interesting.


Anne Pichon (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)