A.V. RAGUNATHAN

It is common knowledge that silicon is indispensable in the integrated circuit of a computer, and yet India does not produce the hardware.

Crystallography study of crystals is an exciting field, because of its vast potential for varied applications. There are no modern appliances such as computers, cellphones, television sets and X-ray equipments that do not have some form of crystals in their configuration.Former Director of Crystal Growth Centre of Anna University P. Ramasamy, a pioneer in crystallography who is spearheading research in crystal growth, is aiming at a world record by growing the largest and longest crystal.The biggest known silicon crystal is measuring 1.75 metres and the biggest solution-grown crystal is 50 - 60 cm long. The crystal being grown by Mr. Ramasamy has already exceeded the size of the biggest one in the second category.Mr. Ramasamy, who was former Vice-Chancellor of Alagappan University, Karaikudi, is now serving as the Director (Research), S.S.N. College of Engineering. He has authored many books on crystallography that have formed part of the curriculum, both in the country and abroad.An authority on crystals, Mr. Ramasamy says that under his guidance, 65 scholars have obtained Ph.D in crystal growth, and about 250 of his students have made a mark in the field. Many of them have obtained lucrative jobs in foreign countries.He is now working on three crystals: benzophenone, KDP (potassium dihydrogen orthophosphate) and L-lysine mono hydrochloride. While the first one is an organic crystal, the second one is inorganic material and the third semi-organic. The first two have their utility in laser field, while the third has diverse uses. Crystals could be grown through three methods: solids, solutions and vaporisation. The method evolved by him and his student is known as `Sankaranarayanan-Ramasamy method'.

India lagging behind

Mr. Ramasamy says that though there is no dearth of talent in India, the country is lagging behind in developing the required hardware. It is common knowledge that silicon is indispensable in the integrated circuit of a computer, and yet India does not produce the hardware.Unlike the research in other fields, the one on crystal growth is not time bound. It requires round-the-clock undivided attention. Some crystals would grow in minutes (polymer), some in few hours (ruby) and some others might take days, weeks, months and even years. What is of utmost importance in getting "safe crystals" is proper infrastructure and uninterrupted power supply. Even a minute's power failure might lead to the research going awry.