Outrunning X-ray damage

Wed, 2012-02-22

X-ray crystallography is a powerful imaging method that can reveal structure and function of many biological molecules, including drugs, proteins and nucleic acids. The problems have been growing large enough crystals to use and sample damage caused by the X-rays.

John C.H. Spence, a Regents Professor in ASU’s Department of Physics, reported on progress made in efforts to “outrun” the X-ray damage by demonstrating a serial snapshot femtosecond (10-15 second) diffraction (SFX) from nanocrystals using the world’s first hard X-ray laser. He reported on using the technique on photosystem I nanocrystals.

“These are early days for femtosecond diffractive imaging,” noted Spence, who provided the theory and much of the data analysis, and has worked with a list of collaborators including Henry Chapman at University of California-Davis.

“But first indications are that high-resolution data can now be obtained at the nanoscale by this method,” Spence said. “If we can indeed ‘outrun’ the many radiation-damage processes in this way, it will open the way to future experiments on laser-excited samples, 3-D image reconstruction and a host of other experiments on fast imaging, all directed to the grand challenge of obtaining movies showing molecules at work.”  Read more here


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