Research Lines


Nucleation and growth under diffusion-controlled mass transport

We are exploring the crystallization behaviour of convection-free solutions, in which mass transport processes are governed by diffusion. We perform fundamental studies on nucleation and crystal growth kinetics with the help of both laboratory experiments and computer simulations. We focus on the use of gels, capillary volumes and microgravity. In parallel, we concentrate on practical applications of these studies, including the growth of high-quality crystals of new compounds: pharmaceutical and small-molecule compounds of new synthesis, as well as macromolecules and minerals. The design of new crystallization devices, including robotic devices, is also part of this research line of LEC.


Industrial Cristalization

Our research line on industrial crystallization processes extends our knowledge of crystallization processes to the control of mass crystallization in industry. Applied research projects on wine, pharmaceutical compounds, sugars, and oil products are on-going or are under discussion.


Non lineal systems and pattern formation

Nonlinear processes currently under investigation in our lab include viscous fingering, solutal convection, fractal dendrites, chemical gardens, and Liesegang structures. We perform theory, simulation, and experiment at LEC.
We focus on the coupling of diffusion and precipitation as a natural connection with our crystallization studies. The effect of gravity on these instabilities is also studied to exploit our expertise in space experiments. We have designed experiments on physico-chemical instabilities to be performed in parabolic flights which have been approved by ESA. 


Biomineralization, biomimetic materials and primitive life detection

Biomineralization processes are the core of two different projects in our lab: the structure of eggshells and the structure of fish otoliths. The interaction of proteins with calcite and other minerals forming bio-skeletons is a long-term project in LEC.
Linked to the research line on pattern formation is the production of self-organized structures displaying the morphological and textural properties of biominerals. In this field we have produced a synthetic self-organized apatite ceramic, and induced-morphology crystal aggregates. The latter are structures displaying morphologies reminiscent of primitive life. Their mechanism of formation and the plausible presence of the necessary conditions on the primitive Earth and on Mars links this research line to the problem of the detection of primitive life 


X-Ray Crystallography

We have recently introduced a research line on structural crystallography that includes the structural resolution of small-molecule compounds crystallized in our lab as well as biological macromolecules. In the latter case, fundamental studies on the quality of the intimate crystal structure and its relationship with crystal growth conditions are performed. Different X-ray diffraction techniques including high resolution diffractometry, X-ray topography and reciprocal space mapping are used to characterize the content and distribution of lattice defects in crystals. Different beamlines from LURE) (Orsay), EMBL-DESY (Hamburg) and ESRF (Grenoble) are used for these studies.