- Danny Axford on the beamline at LCLS where the crystals were tested
The tiny, delicate crystals of E.coli membrane protein are too fragile to be tested on Diamond’s beamlines – exposure to radiation will destroy them almost instantly, making it impossible to get enough data. So the crystals will be taken to the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. The laboratory houses the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world’s most powerful X-ray laser, which produces extremely powerful and short-lived pulses of light. These very brief pulses last, not microseconds, but femtoseconds; in this miniscule amount of time, the team can gather vast amounts of data on the structure of the crystals before they can be destroyed.
Whilst still in its early stages, this project demonstrates the power of drawing on different forms of technology to create synergies within scientific research. Together, the LCLS in Stanford and Diamond Light Source are allowing scientists to trial exciting new techniques and explore cutting-edge approaches to pressing issues such as drug resistance.