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The UK is taking a leading role in the development of a new structural biology facility (SFX) at the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL), in Hamburg, Germany, and a complementary facility at Diamond (The UK XFEL Hub) to help develop the required expertise.

The UK is a leading member of the serial femtosecond crystallography user consortium (SFX-UC), and through its role in the collaboration will deliver a dual instrument at the European XFEL that will enable visiting scientific users to image macromolecules from nanocrystals on the SFX instrument and single particles using scattering of coherent X-rays and detecting the coherent diffraction pattern on the SPB instrument.

  • End station at the CXI beamline, LCLS, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, USA
  • Diffraction from nanocrystals produced by Geoff Sutton (STRUBI) at the CXI beamline at the LCLS
  • The Diamond/Oxford Group at the CXI beamline, LCLS, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, USA
  • Sample injector at the CXI instrument at LCLS, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, USA
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Serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) was the term coined to describe the protocols used to collect the first diffraction data from nanocrystals at the LCLS in Stanford, USA. Scientists there were able to exploit the ultrashort pulses generated by LCLS to collect single shot diffraction images from nanocrystals. Diffraction from such small crystals was made possible due to the high brilliance of the beam (many orders of magnitude more than achievable at a synchrotron). 

The SFX-UC brings together members of the scientific communities in Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Slovakia, Switzerland, United States and Australia. The project is being managed in Hamburg by Adrian Mancuso. The UK structural biology community is represented by Jim Naismith (lead PI, St. Andrews), Jan Lowe (LMB, Cambridge), Henry Chapman (CFEL, Hamburg), Martin Walsh (Diamond) and Dave Stuart (Oxford & Diamond).

Artist's impression of the European XFEL which is currently under construction in Hamburg, Germany. The UK-XFEL Hub will serve as a valuable resource for UK users of the European XFEL's SFX beamline.
Artist's impression of the European XFEL which is currently under construction in Hamburg, Germany. The UK-XFEL Hub will serve as a valuable resource for UK users of the European XFEL's SFX beamline.

At Diamond Dr Allen M. Orville has been appointed group leader of the XFEL Hub which 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.  
Housed within the existing Diamond infrastructure, the hub will enable users to fully prepare for their experiments with currently operating XFELs and the European XFEL when it comes online in Hamburg in 2017. The UK Hub will provide support in terms of sample preparation, data processing and training. 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.
 
For more information on the UK-XFEL Hub, please contact Allen Orville.
 
More about SFX and the European XFEL see latest news.

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