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Wiggling and Undulating Out of an X-ray Shortage

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Science  27 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5432, pp. 1342-1346
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5432.1342

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Biologists and other researchers are flocking to synchrotrons to use x-ray beams to determine the precise structures of important molecules such as proteins. The information provides insights into how the molecules work and clues to the design of drugs to interact with them. Until now, only a handful of huge machines have been able to generate the intense beams of high-energy x-rays needed for such studies, and demand for "beamtime" now greatly exceeds supply. But new techniques enabling smaller, cheaper machines to create x-ray beams nearly as powerful as those produced by the top-of-the-line, $1 billion behemoths may soon relieve the crush. These advances are bringing powerful new synchrotrons within reach of countries like China and Canada, as well as prompting biomedical research funders to collectively pump hundreds of millions of dollars into synchrotron construction.