PerspectiveMaterials Science

Bundling with X-rays

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Science  29 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5965, pp. 529-530
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185868

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More than a century after its discovery, x-ray irradiation continues to profoundly impact a wide range of fields, from screening at airports to whole-body imaging diagnostics in health care (1). In the natural sciences, x-ray crystallography has clarified how the shapes of proteins and related complexes relate to their cellular function, and x-ray scattering has elucidated the structure and dynamics, mechanical properties, and intermolecular interactions of countless materials (25). On page 555 of this issue, Cui et al. (6) report a new twist in the application of x-ray scattering, where synchrotron x-ray irradiation, in addition to its usual role in probing structure, acts as a reversible switch for self-assembly from a disordered to an ordered state of bundled filaments (see the figure).