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      Diffraction before destruction

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          X-ray free-electron lasers have opened up the possibility of structure determination of protein crystals at room temperature, free of radiation damage. The femtosecond-duration pulses of these sources enable diffraction signals to be collected from samples at doses of 1000 MGy or higher. The sample is vaporized by the intense pulse, but not before the scattering that gives rise to the diffraction pattern takes place. Consequently, only a single flash diffraction pattern can be recorded from a crystal, giving rise to the method of serial crystallography where tens of thousands of patterns are collected from individual crystals that flow across the beam and the patterns are indexed and aggregated into a set of structure factors. The high-dose tolerance and the many-crystal averaging approach allow data to be collected from much smaller crystals than have been examined at synchrotron radiation facilities, even from radiation-sensitive samples. Here, we review the interaction of intense femtosecond X-ray pulses with materials and discuss the implications for structure determination. We identify various dose regimes and conclude that the strongest achievable signals for a given sample are attained at the highest possible dose rates, from highest possible pulse intensities.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Femtosecond electronic response of atoms to ultra-intense X-rays.

          An era of exploring the interactions of high-intensity, hard X-rays with matter has begun with the start-up of a hard-X-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). Understanding how electrons in matter respond to ultra-intense X-ray radiation is essential for all applications. Here we reveal the nature of the electronic response in a free atom to unprecedented high-intensity, short-wavelength, high-fluence radiation (respectively 10(18) W cm(-2), 1.5-0.6 nm, approximately 10(5) X-ray photons per A(2)). At this fluence, the neon target inevitably changes during the course of a single femtosecond-duration X-ray pulse-by sequentially ejecting electrons-to produce fully-stripped neon through absorption of six photons. Rapid photoejection of inner-shell electrons produces 'hollow' atoms and an intensity-induced X-ray transparency. Such transparency, due to the presence of inner-shell vacancies, can be induced in all atomic, molecular and condensed matter systems at high intensity. Quantitative comparison with theory allows us to extract LCLS fluence and pulse duration. Our successful modelling of X-ray/atom interactions using a straightforward rate equation approach augurs favourably for extension to complex systems.
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            The potential and limitations of neutrons, electrons and X-rays for atomic resolution microscopy of unstained biological molecules.

            Radiation damage is the main problem which prevents the determination of the structure of a single biological macromolecule at atomic resolution using any kind of microscopy. This is true whether neutrons, electrons or X-rays are used as the illumination. For neutrons, the cross-section for nuclear capture and the associated energy deposition and radiation damage could be reduced by using samples that are fully deuterated and 15N-labelled and by using fast neutrons, but single molecule biological microscopy is still not feasible. For naturally occurring biological material, electrons at present provide the most information for a given amount of radiation damage. Using phase contrast electron microscopy on biological molecules and macromolecular assemblies of approximately 10(5) molecular weight and above, there is in theory enough information present in the image to allow determination of the position and orientation of individual particles: the application of averaging methods can then be used to provide an atomic resolution structure. The images of approximately 10,000 particles are required. Below 10(5) molecular weight, some kind of crystal or other geometrically ordered aggregate is necessary to provide a sufficiently high combined molecular weight to allow for the alignment. In practice, the present quality of the best images still falls short of that attainable in theory and this means that a greater number of particles must be averaged and that the molecular weight limitation is somewhat larger than the predicted limit. For X-rays, the amount of damage per useful elastic scattering event is several hundred times greater than for electrons at all wavelengths and energies and therefore the requirements on specimen size and number of particles are correspondingly larger. Because of the lack of sufficiently bright neutron sources in the foreseeable future, electron microscopy in practice provides the greatest potential for immediate progress.
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              Creation and diagnosis of a solid-density plasma with an X-ray free-electron laser.

              Matter with a high energy density (>10(5) joules per cm(3)) is prevalent throughout the Universe, being present in all types of stars and towards the centre of the giant planets; it is also relevant for inertial confinement fusion. Its thermodynamic and transport properties are challenging to measure, requiring the creation of sufficiently long-lived samples at homogeneous temperatures and densities. With the advent of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, high-intensity radiation (>10(17) watts per cm(2), previously the domain of optical lasers) can be produced at X-ray wavelengths. The interaction of single atoms with such intense X-rays has recently been investigated. An understanding of the contrasting case of intense X-ray interaction with dense systems is important from a fundamental viewpoint and for applications. Here we report the experimental creation of a solid-density plasma at temperatures in excess of 10(6) kelvin on inertial-confinement timescales using an X-ray free-electron laser. We discuss the pertinent physics of the intense X-ray-matter interactions, and illustrate the importance of electron-ion collisions. Detailed simulations of the interaction process conducted with a radiative-collisional code show good qualitative agreement with the experimental results. We obtain insights into the evolution of the charge state distribution of the system, the electron density and temperature, and the timescales of collisional processes. Our results should inform future high-intensity X-ray experiments involving dense samples, such as X-ray diffractive imaging of biological systems, material science investigations, and the study of matter in extreme conditions.

                Author and article information

                Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
                Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci
                Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                The Royal Society
                17 July 2014
                17 July 2014
                : 369
                : 1647 , Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Biology with free-electron X-ray lasers’ organized and edited by John C. H. Spence and Henry N. Chapman
                [1 ]Center for Free-Electron Laser Science, DESY , Notkestrasse 85, 22607 Hamburg, Germany
                [2 ]Department of Physics, University of Hamburg , Luruper Chaussee 149, 22761 Hamburg, Germany
                [3 ]Centre for Ultrafast Imaging , Luruper Chaussee 149, 22761 Hamburg, Germany
                [4 ]Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University , Box 516, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden
                [5 ]Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Uppsala University , Box 596, 75124 Uppsala, Sweden
                Author notes

                One contribution of 27 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘ Biology with free-electron X-ray lasers’.


                © 2014 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Part II: Technique development
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                July 17, 2014

                Philosophy of science

                x-ray lasers, protein crystallography, radiation damage


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