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ESRF celebrates the International Year of Crystallography during Fête de la Science


The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the ESRF, is celebrating the International Year of Crystallography during the three week Fête de la Science festival. Underway right now in Grenoble and running until 19 October, Fête de la Science provides hundreds of ways for members of the public to take part in scientific activities. This year, the theme is centred on the United Nations-declared International Year of Crystallography.

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Crystallography is the study at the atomic level, of crystals - specific solids whose elements are arranged in an ordered pattern throughout the entire solid. Crystals can be found in almost every aspect of our daily life and through crystallography we have been able to understand everything from the structure of foods to medicine.

The United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography; this marks 100 years since the Nobel Prize was awarded to British father and son William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg. UNESCO, with support from the International Union of Crystallography, were asked by the UN to co-ordinate activities throughout the year to raise awareness of this global event.

As part of this, the ESRF joined other partners in Grenoble, to create a brand new smart phone game, to help convey the importance of crystallography to the general public in an entertaining way. In addition, a new website has been created, combining information about crystallography with further mini games to try, and the ESRF has organised an open day as part of Fête de la Science.

The smart phone app, called Crystal Z, is available to ioS and Android users. The plot centres on a town being overtaken by zombies. Created in line with Fête de la Science, users receive messages advising them that they can slow down the effects of zombification by playing games, accumulating crystals and visiting activities during Fete de la Science. The game was created by CEA ( Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies ) , CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) , the ESRF and Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble. It can be accessed here.

Meanwhile, a website,, has been created in line with the International Year of Crystallography, which gives visitors to the site, resources, and also further games to play such as Crystal Maze, Crystal Tetris and quizzes. The idea is for people to learn about crystals and science more generally, in an engaging way.


Krystallopolis offers games, quizzes and information designed to explain crystallography in an accessible way. Credit: Black Muffin/La Casemate

The open day being hosted by the ESRF during Fête de la Science is on Saturday 18 October. Members of the public need to register by the end of 8 October to take part. Activities in a marquee at the ESRF will be centred on crystallography; there will be demonstrations in structural biology and high pressure science, the opportunity to see crystals grow and the chance to take part in construction games and learn about diffraction. Adults registering will have the opportunity to tour both the ESRF and ILL.

opendayILL1.jpg (OPEN DAYS 2013)




Visitors to the ILL during the last open days.





To register for the open day, see here.

For more details about Fête de la Science, see here.


Top image: The Crystal Z game. Credit: Caliente Raymond/Studio Bam Bam/La Casemate