Chemists from St Petersburg University, together with scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University, will create a new laboratory for X-ray diffraction studies. They will study non-covalent interactions in molecules. This is a new topic for Russia. The laboratory will be established in 2021. It will be funded by a megagrant from the Government of the Russian Federation, recently won by Tomsk Polytechnic University.

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The new division will be headed by an invited researcher, professor at the Politecnico di Milano, Giuseppe Resnati, whose h-index is 65.

‘Non-covalent interactions’ is a generic term for intermolecular interactions in chemistry. In contrast to classical valence interactions, these are very weak bonds between molecules. That is why they are of interest to scientists. And although they have not been taken into account for a long time, recent studies show that such weak bonds have a significant effect on the structure and properties of substances. By controlling the architecture of these bonds, it is possible to control the structure of substances and create novel functional materials. Professor Giuseppe Resnati is considered the ‘father’ of the chemistry of nonclassical noncovalent interactions. He was the person who introduced many fundamental concepts and laid the foundations of this direction in chemistry.

Tomsk Polytechnic University and St Petersburg University have been productively cooperating for several years. We are on the way to creating a joint research centre in the field of chemistry. At the same time, equipment, laboratories and internships for employees of the two universities are at no cost to both parties, and the projects are complementary. While researchers at Tomsk Polytechnic University specialise in the synthesis of organic iodine derivatives, scientists at the Institute of Chemistry at St Petersburg University study crystallochemical design using compounds obtained at Tomsk Polytechnic University.

Mekhman Yusubov, Vice-Rector for Research of Tomsk Polytechnic University

‘The megagrant award serves as an example of such effective cooperation. In the project supported by the megagrant, our chemists will focus on deep fundamental research of nonclassical non-covalent interactions, as well as on the creation of novel materials through these interactions. A new laboratory will be created for this research,’ says Mekhman Yusubov, Vice-Rector for Research of Tomsk Polytechnic University. 

Megagrant funds will be used to purchase equipment unique for Tomsk: in particular, a single crystal diffractometer for studying the bonds between molecules in the solid phase.

At present, this is the only device and method with which it is possible to see the structure of individual molecules that form a lattice. These are, in fact, all solids. A single crystal diffractometer is a basic instrument for laboratories, but it is not yet available in Tomsk. It will allow us to directly observe non-covalent interactions for a deeper understanding of their nature and work with novel compounds.

Pavel Postnikov, Associate Professor at the Research School of Chemistry and Applied Biomedical Sciences at Tomsk Polytechnic University

While the process of equipping the laboratory is underway at Tomsk Polytechnic University, research work on the megagrant will be carried out at the St Petersburg University Research Park.

‘Training to work with cutting-edge equipment for Tomsk specialists will take place at St Petersburg University. In terms of its technological capabilities, our Research Park is unique in Russia, and in the world in a number of areas. Moreover, state-of-the-art equipment can be used not only by scientists from St Petersburg University, but also by representatives of other institutions. This is because the Research Park operates according to the principle of equal access. Additionally, experts from St Petersburg University will conduct a training course in the field of X-ray diffraction studies for Tomsk Polytechnic University undergraduate and postgraduate students,’ said Sergey Mikushev, Vice-Rector for Research, St Petersburg University.

The megagrants are a programme of the Government of the Russian Federation aimed at developing international cooperation of Russian universities. As part of the competition for megagrants from the federal budget, Russian universities and scientific institutions are allocated funding to support research in priority areas of science and technology development in Russia. According to the terms of the competition, the principal investigators of such projects should be world-class researchers. Scientific achievements, the level of scientific publications, the experience of the principal investigator and key members of the research team in the chosen field of study are taken into account. Such an invited researcher should create a world-class research laboratory at the university.