The British Association for Crystal Growth was created in 1969 with the aim of bringing together workers who had an interest in crystal growth but who otherwise felt rather isolated by the boundaries of their particular disciplines. Chemists, physicists, crystallographers, chemical engineers, experimental petrologists, mineralogists, gemmologists, biologists and others often found themselves treated as subsidiary minorities by their own professional bodies, despite the importance of their work. Even now, it is still not always appreciated that all modern technology depends upon the controlled growth of crystals. The activities of crystal growers fall naturally into two broad categories: the controlled growth of huge numbers of crystals in batches and the deliberate growth of large individual crystals. The first category is of critical importance in the production of pharmaceutical products and other chemicals, while the second category includes the production of semiconductors, optical crystals and gemstones.
Despite the enormous importance of drug manufacture, we must remember that the crystal-related activities of the chemical industry extend into pigments, heavy chemicals, abrasives and explosives, while the production of large individual single crystals provides the foundations of the electronics industry and provides optical components such as industrial lasers and prisms. Even the detectors required for high-energy physics projects are based on large single crystals.
In recent years, the production of large individual crystals ― which was never well-represented in British universities but had significant industrial and defence representation ― has almost disappeared from the UK, together with many other important basic industrial activities. Fortunately, this is not true in the field of chemical manufacture.
I have been a member of the BACG since its creation and at many conferences have extended my knowledge in unexpected ways and have enjoyed the fellowship and wonderful sociability of the Association. If you are not a member already, you would be most welcome to join, regardless of your particular specialisation or seniority. If you are a member, please try wherever possible to persuade others of the importance of crystal growth. Like many organisations, BACG depends crucially on a dedicated and active committee so please try to attend the AGM (held during the Annual Conference) and consider volunteering as a committee member. (The list of present committee members is available on the website).
As part of its function as a registered charity, BACG provides financial support to research students and others to attend conferences and applications for support are always welcomed.
In 2009, the BACG celebrated its 60th year and the occasion was marked by the publication of its history. If you are interested in crystal growth and its significance in this country, this little book will provide a fascinating read.
I hope that there will be a good attendance at next year’s Conference at Leeds and look forward to meeting you there.
All good wishes to everyone involved in crystal growth,