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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2018-03-07 14:05:54
  • Article ID: 690742

With Laser Light, Scientists Create First X-Ray Holographic Images of Viruses

Using SLAC's X-ray laser, researchers have made the detailed 3-D images of nanoscale biology, with future applications in the study of air pollution, combustion and catalytic processes.

  • Credit: Anatoli Ulmer and Taisia Gorkhover / The Technical University of Berlin and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    This image shows simulated X-ray diffraction patterns that form an in-flight hologram. The depth information is captured from the curved lines.

  • Credit: Anatoli Ulmer and Taisia Gorkhover / The Technical University of Berlin and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    In the new study, the authors superimposed scattered X-ray light from the mimivirus with scattered X-ray light from a reference sphere (main image). The curvature in the superimposed images from the two objects provided depth information and details about the shape of the virus. The image in the lower right corner is a holographic reconstruction of the virus based on the X-ray diffraction patterns collected during the experiment.

  • Credit: Anatoli Ulmer and Taisia Gorkhover / The Technical University of Berlin and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Illustration showing the principle of in-flight holography. (Left) The X-rays scatter off two spheres and form a characteristic diffraction pattern. The patterns are recorded using the very intense X-ray beam of SLAC’s X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). (Center) Changes in size and distance of the spheres are reflected in the patterns which can be directly translated from the diffraction alone. The smaller sphere can act as a holographic reference. (Right) If the spheres are shifted out of plane, the fine lines of the diffraction pattern become curved. The signatures of the position and size of the reference allow researchers to reconstruct the 3-D distances between the small sphere (reference) and the large sphere.

Holography, like photography, is a way to record the world around us. Both use light to make recordings, but instead of two-dimensional photos, holograms reproduce three-dimensional shapes. The shape is inferred from the patterns that form after light ricochets off an object and interferes with another light wave that serves as a reference.

When created with X-ray light, holography can be an extremely useful method for capturing high-resolution images of a nanoscale object—something that is so small, its size is measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter.

So far, X-ray holography has been restricted to objects that form crystals or relied on careful positioning of the sample on a surface. However, many nano-sized particles are non-crystalline, short-lived and very fragile. They may also suffer changes or damage during an experiment when positioned on a surface. Aerosols, exotic states of matter, and the smallest forms of life often fall into these categories and therefore are difficult to study with conventional imaging methods.

In a recent study featured on the March 2018 cover of Nature Photonics, researchers developed a new holographic method called in-flight holography. With this method, they were able to demonstrate the first X-ray holograms of nano-sized viruses that were not attached to any surface.

The patterns needed to create the images were taken at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the X-ray free-electron laser at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Nanoviruses have been studied at LCLS without a holographic reference, but the interpretation of the X-ray images required many steps, relied on human input and was a computationally challenging task.

In the new study, the authors superimposed scattered X-ray light from the virus with scattered X-ray light from a reference nano-sized sphere. The curvature in the superimposed images from the two objects provided depth information and details about the shape of the 450-nanometer-wide virus, the mimivirus. This technique greatly simplified the interpretation of the data.

“Instead of thousands of steps and algorithms that potentially don’t match up, you have a two-step procedure where you clearly get the structure out of your image,” says lead study author Tais Gorkhover, a Panofsky Fellowat SLAC and researcher at the Stanford PULSE Institute.

Now, the scientists can do their reconstruction of a sample in fractions of a second or even faster with the holographic method.

“Before our study, the interpretation of the X-ray images was very complicated and the structure of nanosamples was reconstructed long after the actual experiment using non-trivial algorithms,” says Christoph Bostedt, a scientist at the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and a co-author of the study. “With ‘in-flight’ holography, the procedure is very simple and in principle can be performed while taking data. This is a real breakthrough.”

“Another advantage of the in-flight holography method is that it is less prone to noise and to the artifacts that can appear in the detector compared to non-holographic X-ray imaging,” says Anatoli Ulmer, a co-author and PhD student from the Technical University of Berlin in Germany.

In the long run, the researchers predict that in-flight holography will offer new ways to study air pollution, combustion and catalytic processes, all of which involve nanoparticles.

An international team of scientists from the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley and Brookhaven national laboratories, the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the Czech Academy of Science, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Germany, the Institute of Optics and Atomic Physics in Germany, the Institute for Solid State Physics and Optics in Hungary, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, Northwestern University and Uppsala University in Sweden also contributed to this research.

LCLS is a DOE Office of Science user facility.

SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, Calif., SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more informatiom, please visit slac.stanford.edu.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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New Testing of Model Improves Confidence in the Performance of ITER

Article describes effect of ion and electron heating on multiscale turbulence in fusion plasmas.

Study Recommends Strong Role for National Labs in 'Second Laser Revolution'

A new study calls for the U.S. to step up its laser R&D efforts to better compete with major overseas efforts to build large, high-power laser systems, and notes progress and milestones at the Department of Energy's Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center and other sites.

Wood Formation Model To Fuel Progress in Bioenergy, Paper, New Applications

Need stronger timber, better biofuel or new sources of green chemicals? A systems biology model built on decades of NC State research will accelerate progress on engineering trees for specific needs.

Researchers Achieve HD Video Streaming at 10,000 Times Lower Power

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a new HD video streaming method that doesn't need to be plugged in. Their prototype skips the power-hungry components and has something else, like a smartphone, process the video instead.

Lawrence Livermore Issues Combined State-by-State Energy and Water Use Flow Charts

For the first time, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has issued state-by-state energy and water flow charts in one location so that analysts and policymakers can find all the information they need in one place.

Battery's Hidden Layer Revealed

An international team led by Argonne National Laboratory makes breakthrough in understanding the chemistry of the microscopically thin layer that forms between the liquid electrolyte and solid electrode in lithium-ion batteries. The results are being used in improving the layer and better predicting battery lifetime.

Ramp Compression of Iron Provides Insight into Core Conditions of Large Rocky Exoplanets

A team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Rochester have provided the first experimentally based mass-radius relationship for a hypothetical pure iron planet at super-Earth core conditions. This discovery can be used to evaluate plausible compositional space for large, rocky exoplanets, forming the basis of future planetary interior models, which in turn can be used to more accurately interpret observation data from the Kepler space mission and aid in identifying planets suitable for habitability.

Getting Magnesium Ions to Pick Up the Pace

Magnesium ions move very fast to enable a new class of battery materials.

Valleytronics Discovery Could Extend Limits of Moore's Law

Research appearing today in Nature Communications finds useful new information-handling potential in samples of tin(II) sulfide (SnS), a candidate "valleytronics" transistor material that might one day enable chipmakers to pack more computing power onto microchips. 

Scientists Use Machine Learning to Speed Discovery of Metallic Glass

SLAC and its collaborators are transforming the way new materials are discovered. In a new report, they combine artificial intelligence and accelerated experiments to discover potential alternatives to steel in a fraction of the time.


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Five Leading Liberal Arts Colleges Partner to Create New Solar Energy Facility in Maine

Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges have formed a partnership that will allow them to offset 46,000 megawatt hours per year of their collective electrical needs--enough to power 5,000 New England homes--with electricity created at a solar power facility to be built in Maine.

Argonne Selects Innovators From Across Nation to Grow Startups

Argonne announces second cohort of Chain Reaction Innovations.

Brookhaven Lab Materials Physicist Yimei Zhu Receives 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Microscopy Society of America

How do complex atomic and electronic interactions impact material properties? Using electron microscopy instrumentation and methods he developed, Yimei Zhu has been investigating this question for the past 30 years. The Microscopy Society of America is now recognizing his contributions.

SLAC Produces First Electron Beam with Superconducting Electron Gun

Accelerator scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are testing a new type of electron gun for a future generation of instruments that take snapshots of the atomic world in never-before-seen quality and detail, with applications in chemistry, biology, energy and materials science.

U.S., India Sign Agreement Providing for Neutrino Physics Collaboration at Fermilab and in India

Earlier today, April 16, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and India's Atomic Energy Secretary Dr. Sekhar Basu signed an agreement in New Delhi to expand the two countries' collaboration on world-leading science and technology projects. It opens the way for jointly advancing cutting-edge neutrino science projects under way in both countries: the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) with the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) hosted at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermilab and the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO).

Nanomaterials Expert Ganpati Ramanath Named Fellow of Materials Research Society

Nanomaterials expert Ganpati Ramanath, the John Tod Horton '52 Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been named a fellow of the Materials Research Society (MRS) "for developing creative approaches to realize new nanomaterials via chemically directed nanostructure synthesis and assembly and for tailoring interfaces in electronics and energy applications using molecular nanolayers."

Doing the Neutron Dance

Two materials scientists, Suzanne te Velthuis and Stephan Rosenkranz, have been named fellows of the Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA).

Hirohisa Tanaka Joins SLAC to Push Limits of Neutrino Physics

Accomplished neutrino physicist Hirohisa Tanaka has joined the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory as a professor of particle physics and astrophysics. He oversees a group at the lab that is preparing for research with the future Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) at the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF). The experiment will give scientists unprecedented opportunities to learn more about neutrinos - fundamental particles with mysterious properties that could play crucial roles in the evolution of the universe.

University Teams to Compete in Department of Energy's 2018 National Cyber Defense Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy is proud to announce the 29 university teams selected to compete in the third annual Cyber Defense Competition (CDC), taking place April 6-7, 2018.


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Getting Magnesium Ions to Pick Up the Pace

Magnesium ions move very fast to enable a new class of battery materials.

Seeing How Next-Generation Batteries Power-Up

Scientists directly see how the atoms in a magnesium-based battery fit into the structure of electrodes.

Worm-Inspired Tough Materials

Scientists mimic a worm's lethal jaw to design and form resilient materials.

How to Turn Light Into Atomic Vibrations

Converting laser light into nuclear vibrations is key to switching a material's properties on and off for future electronics.

Superacids Are Good Medicine for Super Thin Semiconductors

Scientists demonstrated that powerful acids heal certain structural defects in synthetic films.

Tubular Science Improves Polymer Solar Cells

Novel engineered polymers assemble buckyballs into columns using a conventional coating process.

Fast! Hard X-Ray Flash Breaks Speed Record

Lasting just a few hundred billionths of a billionth of a second, these bursts offer new tool to study chemistry and magnetism.

Scientists Have Overestimated Meteor Sizes

First demonstration of high-pressure metastability mapping with ultrafast X-ray diffraction shows objects aren't as large as previously thought.

Rewriting Resistance: Genetic Changes Increase Crops' Biomass and Sugar Release

Using genetic engineering, scientists improve biomass growth and conversion in woody and grassy feedstocks.

Measuring the Glow of Plants From Below

Novel observations suggest a great potential of measuring global gross primary production via solar-induced fluorescence.


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