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The UK-XFEL continues the theme at Diamond and the Harwell campus for providing a platform for an integrated approach to structural biology research. The XFEL hub at Diamond provides a focus for methods developments ranging from development of new sample environments, software and exploitation of high performance computing to helping users access these new sources as they evolve and come online. Funded by the Wellcome trust, the Medical Research and Biological and Biotechnology Research councils, this project places the UK as the major partner of the first user consortium led project at the European XFEL which will build a dedicated instrument for serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX-UC). The consortium is working in partnership with the European XFEL to deliver a unique facility for structural biology to provide, in addition to SFX, an instrument for single particle imaging (SPB). Together these instruments (SFX and SPB) will enable visiting scientific users to image macromolecules from nanocrystals and single particles.
The exciting science the European XFEL will deliver, with cases of great interest to the UK such as the Heisenberg Resonant Inelastic X-ray Scattering (h-RIXS) collaboration, has cumulated with the announcement by the UK government in December 2014 that the UK would invest up to £30M to become a full member of the European XFEL in Hamburg, Germany. The SFX/SPB instruments will use the incredibly short and intense pulses of light from the European XFEL to capture snapshots of the arrangement of atoms within the biomolecules. The pulses of light produced by the European XFEL will be so short that researchers should be able to piece the snapshots together to effectively create a movie of temporal changes, furthering their understanding of the processes taking place within, for example, a living cell.
Figure 5: European XFEL accelerator tunnel. Image courtesy European XFEL.
A novel aspect of the hub is to help develop the required expertise to exploit XFEL instruments worldwide, by directing training and support for UK scientists to fully exploit their experimental time via a UK-XFEL Hub. Housed within the existing Diamond infrastructure the hub will act as a focus for a number of activities:
•Development of hardware and software for SFX;
•Provision of a sample environments lab to enable users to prepare samples for current liquid jet technologies at operating hard X-ray FELS;
•Provision of a user access program for SFX/SPB and currently operating hard X-ray FEL facilities worldwide.
There will also be a dedicated fibre link from Hamburg to Harwell enabling users to carry out data analysis back in the UK, with support from the UK Hub team.
Over five years, between 2014 and 2019, the UK funders will contribute £5.64M to the construction of SFX at the European XFEL. As a lead partner in the SFX consortium, the UK will secure dedicated time during the five year development, and will develop significant expertise in this game-changing technique at the UK-XFEL Hub at Diamond.
Figure 6: Sample preparation for biological XFEL research.
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