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.
- X-ray free-electron lasers
- biological crystallography
- serial femtosecond crystallography
- two-dimensional crystallography
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)