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Nano-diffraction of biological specimens

The Abrahams group develops new approaches for using diffraction to determine the atomic structures of proteins and other radiation sensitive nano-size samples. We use diffraction rather than imaging, because diffraction patterns can be measured more accurately than images.

In first instance, we concentrate our efforts on the structure determination of minute nano-crystals, too small to see even with the best light microscopes. Many proteins can only form such nano-crystals, yet these crystals are too small for standard X-ray diffraction.

However, nano-crystals are well suited for electron diffraction, because electrons induce far less radiation damage compared to X-rays for the amount of information that their diffraction patterns provide. Electron nano-crystallography of proteins is an emerging technology and many of its aspects need to be developed and improved, while also several fundamental problems remain to be solved.

To this aim, we develop novel data collection strategies, implement novel detectors for accurately and sensitively measuring electron diffraction data, we develop novel algorithms for analysing this data and (often in collaboration with others) we investigate new, unkown structures of proteins and other samples. The Abrahams group is located at C-CINA and at the Laboratory of Biomolecular Research at the Paul Scherrer Institute.