Femtosecond diffractive imaging with a soft-X-ray free-electron laser

Henry N. Chapman, Anton Barty, Michael J. Bogan, Sébastien Boutet, Matthias Frank, Stefan P. Hau-Riege, Stefano Marchesini, Bruce W. Woods, Saša Bajt, W. Henry Benner, Richard A. London, Elke Plönjes, Marion Kuhlmann, Rolf Treusch, Stefan Düsterer, Thomas Tschentscher, Jochen R. Schneider, Eberhard Spiller, Thomas Möller, Christoph BostedtMatthias Hoener, David A. Shapiro, Keith O. Hodgson, David Van Der Spoel, Florian Burmeister, Magnus Bergh, Carl Caleman, Gösta Huldt, M. Marvin Seibert, Filipe R.N.C. Maia, Richard W. Lee, Abraham Szöke, Nicusor Timneanu, Janos Hajdu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

768 Scopus citations


Theory predicts that, with an ultrashort and extremely bright coherent X-ray pulse, a single diffraction pattern may be recorded from a large macromolecule, a virus or a cell before the sample explodes and turns into a plasma. Here we report the first experimental demonstration of this principle using the FLASH soft-X-ray free-electron laser. An intense 25 fs, 4×1013 W cm-2 pulse, containing 1012 photons at 32 nm wavelength, produced a coherent diffraction pattern from a nanostructured non-periodic object, before destroying it at 60,000 K. A novel X-ray camera assured single-photon detection sensitivity by filtering out parasitic scattering and plasma radiation. The reconstructed image, obtained directly from the coherent pattern by phase retrieval through oversampling, shows no measurable damage, and is reconstructed at the diffraction-limited resolution. A three-dimensional data set may be assembled from such images when copies of a reproducible sample are exposed to the beam one by one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-843
Number of pages5
JournalNature Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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