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Research Professionals

Beth Opila

Michal Sabat
Head, X-Ray Diffraction Section
Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility (NMCF)

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
AND Department of Chemistry

Ph.D. 1976 University of Wroclaw, Poland
M.S. 1970 University of Wroclaw, Poland

Department of Materials Science & Engineering
University of Virginia
PO Box 400745
395 McCormick Road
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4745
Office: MSE Building Room 101
p: 434- 924-7862
f: 434- 982-5660


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Research Interests

Soft Materials and Biomaterials
Applications of Crystal Engineering and Supramolecular Chemistry in Materials Science
Modern X-Ray Techniques in Materials Science and Nanotechnology
Structural Chemistry and X-Ray Crystallography

Presently, I am in charge of the X-Ray Diffraction Section of our Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility (NMCF).   

X-Ray Research at NMCF

The laboratory consists of several X-ray instruments (see the pictures below) used for a number of X-ray scattering techniques:

Bruker Kappa Duo
CCD Diffractometer

Rigaku SMAX 3000 Small-Angle
X-ray Scattering (SAXS) Instrument

Panalytical X’Pert Pro
MPD Powder Diffractometer
XRadia X-ray Computed
Tomography (XCT)
MicroXCT-200 Instrument

  • Single-crystal structure analysis
  • Structure analysis from powder diffraction data
  • Quantitative and qualitative phase identification
  • X-ray reflectivity for thin films
  • Grazing incidence methods
  • Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) of materials and biological macromolecules
  • X-ray computed tomography (XCT)
  • Residual stress and texture


I am involved in the research and training that apply the X-ray techniques. The research projects are focused on the structure of the potential homogeneous catalysts designed by the Gunnoe group of the UVA Chemistry Department. The Harman group, of the same department, applies the X-ray structure analysis to unravel the most important compounds participating in the de-aromatization of several arene complexes containing W, Re and other third-row metal compounds. De-aromatization is an important process in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The Pu group, of the Chemistry Department, is interested in the design and synthesis of novel, chiral organic molecules and macromolecules for applications in asymmetric catalysis, chiral sensors, polarized light emission and nonlinear optics. The Chemistry Department’s Fraser group applies X-ray analysis for the structure of metallobiomaterials as optical imaging agents, oxygen sensors and drug delivery systems.  

The X-ray facility is essential to the research on advanced materials. Several research groups of the Materials Science and Engineering Department (follow the link use the Xpert powder diffractometer, as well as the XCT and SAXS systems. Professor Agnew’s group applies X-ray techniques to study the orientation and stress-state of individual grains and polycrystals.  These structural measurements are linked to measurements of the mechanical properties performed using universal testing machines, formability tests, or ultrasonic testing.  X-ray techniques are also applied to the study of surfaces and thin films by the groups of Professors Baragiola, Floro, Fitz-Gerald and Wadley. Professor Poon and his group, at the UVA Physics Department, design and synthesize novel amorphous metals, nanostructured materials, and intermetallic compounds that are characterized by a number of X-ray methods.

One of the goals of the laboratory is to make all of these diverse X-ray techniques mentioned above complementary. As an example, small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) can be used to enhance the results of the X-ray computed tomography (XCT) and vice versa. We believe that the simultaneous application of several available X-ray methods is essential for a deeper understanding of the structure-property relationship in modern materials.




Professonal Experience and Memberships

Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 1981-1983

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 1980-1981

Senior Research Scientist, Institute of Stereochemistry, National Research Council (CNR), Florence, Italy, 1983 -1986

Lecturer in Chemistry, Director of X-Ray Crystallography and Molecular Graphics, Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston , IL , 1986-1989

Director, Molecular Structure Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 1990-2010


Honors and Awards

1999 David Harrison III Award for Undergraduate Advising

Selected Publications


Google Scholar: Publications Page

A Quick Access to the Spirotricyclic Core Analogue of Mangicol A by a Rh(I)-Catalyzed Tandem Pauson–Khand/[4+ 2] Cycloaddition W. Chen, J. H. Tay, J. Ying, M. Sabat, X. Q. Yu, and L. Pu, Chem.Comm. 49, 170 (2013)

Direct Coupling of Nitriles and Aniline to Form the Triazapentadiene Species RhIII {NH = C (R)
N(Ph)C(R)=N-H} T. Bolaño, T. B. Gunnoe, and M. Sabat, Dalton Transactions 42, 347 (2013)

Friedel–Crafts Ring-Coupling Reactions Promoted by Tungsten Dearomatization Agent J. A. Pienkos , V. E. Zottig, D. A. Iovan, M. Li, D. P. Harrison, M. Sabat, R. J. Salomon, L. Strausberg , V. A. Teran, W. H. Myers and W. D. Harman , Organometallics , 32, 915 (2013)

Facile and Regioselective C–H Bond Activation of Aromatic Substrates by an Fe(II) Complex Involving a Spin-Forbidden Pathway S. E. Kalman, A. Petit, T. B. Gunnoe, D. H. Ess, T. R. Cundari, and M. Sabat , Organometallics, 32, 1797 (2013)

2,2,2-Tris(pyrazolyl)ethoxide (EpOX) Ruthenium(II) Complexes, (EpOX)RuCl(L)(L′): Synthesis, Structure, and Reactivity B. Quillian, E. E. Joslin, T. B. Gunnoe, M. Sabat, and W. H. Myers Inorg. Chem., 52, 1113 (2013)

Exploiting the o-Quinodimethane Nature of Naphthalene: Cycloaddition Reactions with η2-Coordinated Tungsten–Naphthalene Complexes L. Strausberg, M. Li, D. P. Harrison, W. H. Myers, M. Sabat, and W. D. Harman, Organometallics, 32, 915 (2013)

Platinum(II)-Catalyzed Ethylene Hydrophenylation: Switching Selectivity between Alkyl- and Vinylbenzene Production B. A. McKeown, H E. Gonzalez, M. R. Friedfeld, A. M. Brosnahan, T. B. Gunnoe, T. R. Cundari, and M. Sabat Organometallics, 32, 2857 (2013)

PtII-Catalyzed Ethylene Hydrophenylation: Influence of Dipyridyl Chelate Ring Size on Catalyst Activity Longevity B. A. McKeown, H. Gonzalez, T. B. Gunnoe, T. R. Cundari, and M. Sabat, ACS Catalysis, 3, 1165 (2013)

Control of Olefin Hydroarylation Catalysis via a Sterically and Electronically Flexible Platinum(II)
Catalyst Scaffold B. A. McKeown, H. E. Gonzalez, T. Michaelos, T. B. Gunnoe, T. R. Cundari,
R. H. Crabtree and M. Sabat, Organometallics, 32, 3903 (2013)