X-ray Free Electron Laser Science (XFEL) and nanocrystallography

X-ray crystallography is routinely used to determine protein structures. However XFEL sources are creating new opportunities in this area by enabling structure determination from nanocrystals just a few unit cells across. Structure determination using XFELs is achieved by injecting randomly orientated nanocrystals into a reaction zone traversed by the femtosecond pulse. Orientations may be classified by examining Bragg spots and assembling them into a 3-dimensional diffraction volume.

Research within XFEL science involves both the development of new approaches to analysing and treating XFEL crystallography diffraction data and methods for delivering nanocrystals into the XFEL beam. Research in this area is being led by Dr Connie Darmanin who is an expert in protein crystallography.

The major outcomes of this work will be to permit structure retrieval from the smallest possible nanocrystals and to explore the fundamental physics of diffraction theory.