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X-ray camera to shoot molecules in 3-D

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Ashley N. Paddock,

A £3 million x-ray camera that can take images at a speed equivalent to 4.5 million frames per second could help scientists to better understand the structure of matter.

Engineers at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) have built the device for the new European XFEL (x-ray free-electron laser) facility in Hamburg, Germany, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow. The European XFEL will use superconducting accelerator technology to speed up electrons, which then generate coherent x-ray flashes that are a billion times brighter than those produced by conventional x-ray sources. With the properties of laser light, these short, intense flashes will make it possible to capture 3-D images of single molecules.

Image of a large-pixel detector (shown from the front with the cover removed), which will help the European XFEL record 3-D images of individual molecules.

Current x-ray cameras are designed to create images by bombarding matter with a constant x-ray beam. However, because of the extreme intensity and brevity of the flashes they produce, such cameras are not suitable for use in the new facility.

Engineers at STFC have designed a large-pixel detector to be used in conjunction with hypershort, hyperbrilliant x-ray flashes. It will be installed in one of the first experimental end stations incorporated in the European XFEL.

Scientists at the facility believe that the images produced by the ultrafast camera should provide new insights into the structure and behavior of matter and lead to advances in fields such as drug discovery. The facility begins operation in 2015.

Oct 2011
Biophotonicscamerascoherent x-ray flashesEuro NewsEuropeEuropean XFELimaginglarge pixel detectorLPDNewsScience and Technology Facilities CouncilScotlandSensors & DetectorsSTFCthree-dimensional images of single moleculesunderstand structure of matterUniversity of Glasgowx-ray beamx-ray camerax-ray free electron laser

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