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

31 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


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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