Low-Z polymer sample supports for fixed-target serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography

Geoffrey K. Feld, Michael Heymann, W. Henry Benner, Tommaso Pardini, Ching Ju Tsai, Sébastien Boutet, Matthew A Coleman, Mark S. Hunter, Xiaodan Li, Marc Messerschmidt, Achini Opathalage, Bill Pedrini, Garth J. Williams, Bryan A. Krantz, Seth Fraden, Stefan Hau-Riege, James E. Evans, Brent W. Segelke, Matthias Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) offer a new avenue to the structural probing of complex materials, including biomolecules. Delivery of precious sample to the XFEL beam is a key consideration, as the sample of interest must be serially replaced after each destructive pulse. The fixed-target approach to sample delivery involves depositing samples on a thin-film support and subsequent serial introduction via a translating stage. Some classes of biological materials, including two-dimensional protein crystals, must be introduced on fixed-target supports, as they require a flat surface to prevent sample wrinkling. A series of wafer and transmission electron microscopy (TEM)-style grid supports constructed of low-Z plastic have been custom-designed and produced. Aluminium TEM grid holders were engineered, capable of delivering up to 20 different conventional or plastic TEM grids using fixed-target stages available at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). As proof-of-principle, X-ray diffraction has been demonstrated from two-dimensional crystals of bacteriorhodopsin and three-dimensional crystals of anthrax toxin protective antigen mounted on these supports at the LCLS. The benefits and limitations of these low-Z fixed-target supports are discussed; it is the authors' belief that they represent a viable and efficient alternative to previously reported fixed-target supports for conducting diffraction studies with XFELs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1079
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Crystallography
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • biological crystallography
  • microcrystallography
  • serial femtosecond crystallography
  • two-dimensional crystallography
  • X-ray free-electron lasers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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