Research NewsX-ray Crystallography

Beam Splitter Teases Out Phase Secrets

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Science  08 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5365, pp. 828
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5365.828a

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To determine the structure of complex molecules such as proteins, x-ray crystallography often requires researchers to make two or more different crystals of the molecule, some containing added heavy metals, and obtain many diffraction patterns from each--a process that can take years. But now a Cornell University x-ray physicist reports in the 13 April Physical Review Letters that he has developed a technique that requires just a single pure crystal. He uses the crystal itself to split the x-ray beam in two, resulting in two beams passing through the crystal at slightly different angles and a diffraction pattern that provides the data needed to calculate the molecule's structure.