An assessment of the resolution limitation due to radiation-damage in X-ray diffraction microscopy

M. R. Howells, T. Beetz, H. N. Chapman, C. Cui, J. M. Holton, C. J. Jacobsen, J. Kirz, E. Lima, S. Marchesini, H. Miao, D. Sayre, D. A. Shapiro, John Spence, D. Starodub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

389 Scopus citations


X-ray diffraction microscopy (XDM) is a new form of X-ray imaging that is being practiced at several third-generation synchrotron-radiation X-ray facilities. Nine years have elapsed since the technique was first introduced and it has made rapid progress in demonstrating high-resolution three-dimensional imaging and promises few-nanometer resolution with much larger samples than can be imaged in the transmission electron microscope. Both life- and materials-science applications of XDM are intended, and it is expected that the principal limitation to resolution will be radiation damage for life science and the coherent power of available X-ray sources for material science. In this paper we address the question of the role of radiation damage. We use a statistical analysis based on the so-called "dose fractionation theorem" of Hegerl and Hoppe to calculate the dose needed to make an image of a single life-science sample by XDM with a given resolution. We find that the needed dose scales with the inverse fourth power of the resolution and present experimental evidence to support this finding. To determine the maximum tolerable dose we have assembled a number of data taken from the literature plus some measurements of our own which cover ranges of resolution that are not well covered otherwise. The conclusion of this study is that, based on the natural contrast between protein and water and "Rose-criterion" image quality, one should be able to image a frozen-hydrated biological sample using XDM at a resolution of about 10 nm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-12
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Coherent X-rays
  • Diffraction imaging
  • Dose fractionation
  • Frozen-hydrated samples
  • Radiation damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Radiation
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'An assessment of the resolution limitation due to radiation-damage in X-ray diffraction microscopy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this