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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: Materials Science Building 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

Panalytical Epsilon 3 X-Ray

Panalytical Epsilon 3
X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) 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
  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis

I am involved in the research and instruction of these X-ray techniques in the Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering Departments at the University of Virginia. The research projects are focused on the structure of the potential homogeneous catalysts designed by the Gunnoe group (Chemistry Department) . The Harman group (Chemistry) applies X-ray structure analysis to unravel the most crucial compounds participating in the de-aromatization of several arene complexes containing W, Re and other transition metals. De-aromatization is an important process in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The Pu group (Chemistry) 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 Fraser group (Chemistry) applies X-ray analysis to the structure of metallobiomaterials as optical imaging agents, oxygen sensors and drug delivery systems. The Machan group (Chemistry) is doing research on energy-relevant catalysis. The Zhang group (Chemistry) is working on nanomaterials for energy and environmental applications.

The X-ray facility is essential to the research on advanced materials. Several research groups of the Materials Science & Engineering Department (MSE) 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 the studies of the mechanical properties performed using universal testing machines, formability tests, or ultrasonic testing. Professor Opila and her group investigate materials durability in extreme environments for energy, power, and propulsion applications. X-ray techniques are also applied to the study of surfaces and thin films by the groups of Professors Floro, Fitz-Gerald and Wadley. Current research in McDonnell’s group focuses on understanding how 2D materials interface with other materials in electronic devices. Professor Poon and his group – of 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 above mentioned, diverse X-ray techniques complementary. For example, small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) can be used to enhance the results of 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


Courses Taught

CHEM 5380 - Determination of Molecular Structure by Diffraction Methods

MSE 4592/6592 – X-Ray Scattering Techniques in Materials Science


Honors and Awards

1999 David Harrison III Award for Undergraduate Advising

Selected Publications


Google Scholar: Publications Page

Modulating Mechanochromic Luminescence Quenching of Alkylated Iodo Difluoroboron Dibenzoylmethane Materials, WA Morris, M Sabat, T Butler, CA DeRosa, CL Fraser J. Phys.Chem C 120, 14289 (2016)

Rh (I)-Catalyzed Chemo-and Stereoselective Domino Cycloaddition of Optically Active Propargyl 2, 4-Hexadienyl Ethers J Ying, KB Brown, MJ Sandridge,  BA  Hering, M Sabat, L Pu J.Org.Chem. 80, 3195 (2015)       

Long-Range C–H Bond Activation by RhIII-Carboxylates  ME O’Reilly, R Fu, RJ Nielsen, M Sabat, WA Goddard III, TB Gunnoe J. Am. Chem. Soc. 136, 14690 (2014)

Oxygen Atom Insertion into Iron (II) Phenyl and Methyl Bonds: A Key Step for Catalytic Hydrocarbon Functionalization J Mei, DB Pardue, SE Kalman, TB Gunnoe, TR Cundari, M Sabat Organometallics 33, 5597 (2014)

Visible Light Sensitization of TiO2 Nanotubes by Bacteriochlorophyll-C Dyes for Photoelectrochemical Solar Cells L Tsui, J Huang, M Sabat, G Zangari ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2, 2097 (2014)

Double Protonation of Amino-Substituted Pyridine and Pyrimidine Tungsten Complexes: Friedel–Crafts-like Coupling to Aromatic Heterocycles JA Pienkos, AT Knisely, BL MacLeod, JT Myers, PJ Shivokevich, V Teran, M Sabat, WH Myers, WD Harman Organometallics 33, 5464 (2014)