Image reconstruction in serial femtosecond nanocrystallography using x-ray free-electron lasers

Joe P J Chen, Richard Kirian, Kenneth R. Beyerlein, Richard J. Bean, Andrew J. Morgan, Oleksandr M. Yefanov, Romain D. Arnal, David H. Wojtas, Phil J. Bones, Henry N. Chapman, John Spence, Rick P. Millane

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Serial femtosecond nanocrystallography (SFX) is a form of x-ray coherent diffraction imaging that utilises a stream of tiny nanocrystals of the biological assembly under study, in contrast to the larger crystals used in conventional x-ray crystallography using conventional x-ray synchrotron x-ray sources. Nanocrystallography utilises the extremely brief and intense x-ray pulses that are obtained from an x-ray free-electron laser (XFEL). A key advantage is that some biological macromolecules, such as membrane proteins for example, do not easily form large crystals, but spontaneously form nanocrystals. There is therefore an opportunity for structure determination for biological molecules that are inaccessible using conventional x-ray crystallography. Nanocrystallography introduces a number of interesting image reconstruction problems. Weak diffraction patterns are recorded from hundreds of thousands of nancocrystals in unknown orientations, and these data have to be assembled and merged into a 3D intensity dataset. The diffracted intensities can also be affected by the surface structure of the crystals that can contain incomplete unit cells. Furthermore, the small crystal size means that there is potentially access to diffraction information between the crystalline Bragg peaks. With this information, phase retrieval is possible without resorting to the collection of additional experimental data as is necessary in conventional protein crystallography. We report recent work on the diffraction characteristics of nanocrystals and the resulting reconstruction algorithms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISBN (Print)9781628417661, 9781628417661
StatePublished - 2015
EventImage Reconstruction from Incomplete Data VIII - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 11 2015Aug 12 2015


OtherImage Reconstruction from Incomplete Data VIII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


  • nanocrystal
  • phase retrieval
  • serial femtosecond nanocrystallography
  • x-ray crystallography
  • x-ray free-electron laser

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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