Femtosecond Crystallography with Ultrabright Electrons and X-rays: Capturing Chemistry in Action

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Science  07 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6175, pp. 1108-1116
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248488

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With the recent advances in ultrabright electron and x-ray sources, it is now possible to extend crystallography to the femtosecond time domain to literally light up atomic motions involved in the primary processes governing structural transitions. This review chronicles the development of brighter and brighter electron and x-ray sources that have enabled atomic resolution to structural dynamics for increasingly complex systems. The primary focus is on achieving sufficient brightness using pump-probe protocols to resolve the far-from-equilibrium motions directing chemical processes that in general lead to irreversible changes in samples. Given the central importance of structural transitions to conceptualizing chemistry, this emerging field has the potential to significantly improve our understanding of chemistry and its connection to driving biological processes.

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