Full 3-D image of nanocrystals' interior created by shining X-rays through them

July 5, 2006

A vital step towards the ultimate goal of being able to take 'photographs' of individual molecules in action has been achieved by an international team led by UCL (University College London) researchers at the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

They report in the journal Nature on a novel method of obtaining a full 3-D image of the interior of nanocrystals. Using a process known as coherent X-ray diffraction imaging, they were able to build a picture of the inside of nanocrystals by measuring and inverting diffraction patterns.

Ultimately, the technique will help in the development of X-ray free-electron lasers, which will allow single-molecule imaging. It will also allow researchers to more accurately assess the defects in any given material which gives them specific properties.

Professor Ian Robinson, of the UCL Department of Physics & Astronomy and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, who led the study, says: "This new imaging method shows that the interior structure of atomic displacements within single nanocrystals can be obtained by direct inversion of the diffraction pattern. We hope one day this will be applied to determine the structure of single protein molecules placed in the femtosecond beam of a free-electron laser.

"Coherent X-ray diffraction imaging emerged from the realisation that over-sampled diffraction patterns can be inverted to obtain real space images. It is an attractive alternative to electron microscopy because of the better penetration of the electromagnetic waves in materials of interest, which are often less damaging to the sample than electrons."

The inversion of a diffraction pattern back to an image has already been proven to yield a unique 'photograph' in two or higher dimensions. However, previously researchers have encountered difficulties with 3-D structures with deformations as these interfere with the symmetry of the pattern. To overcome this problem, the UCL team used a lead nanocrystal that was crystallised in an ultrahigh vacuum. It showed that asymmetries in the diffraction pattern can be mapped to deformities, providing a detailed 3-D map of the location of them in the crystal.

Source: University College London

Explore further: New mathematics advances the frontier of macromolecular imaging

Related Stories

3D potential through laser annihilation

June 16, 2015

Whether in the pages of H.G. Wells, the serial adventures of Flash Gordon, or that epic science fiction saga that is Star Wars, the appearance of laser beams—or rays or phasers or blasters—ultimately meant the imminent ...

Building a better microscope to see at the atomic level

June 1, 2015

One of the more famous images in biology is known as "Photo 51," an image of DNA that chemist Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling created in 1952 by shooting X-rays through fibers of DNA and analyzing the patterns they ...

Popper's experiment realized again—but what does it mean?

January 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—Like Einstein, the philosopher Karl Popper was a realist who was deeply bothered by some of the odd implications of quantum mechanics. Both Popper and Einstein disliked the idea in Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, ...

Recommended for you

Electrical circuit made of gel can repair itself

August 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—Scientists have fabricated a flexible electrical circuit that, when cut into two pieces, can repair itself and fully restore its original conductivity. The circuit is made of a new gel that possesses a combination ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.