Acta Crystallographica Section A

Foundations of Crystallography

Volume 69, Part 1 (January 2013)

Bragg centennial

Acta Cryst. (2013). A69, 25-33    [ doi:10.1107/S0108767312046296 ]

Lawrence Bragg, microdiffraction and X-ray lasers

J. C. H. Spence

Abstract: We trace the historical development of W. L. Bragg's `law' and the key experimental observation which made it possible using polychromatic radiation at a time when neither X-ray wavelengths nor cell constants were known. This led, through his phasing and solving large mineral structures (without use of a computer), to work on metals, proteins, bubble rafts and his X-ray microscope. The relationship of this to early X-ray microdiffraction is outlined, followed by a brief review of electron microdiffraction methods, where electron-probe sizes smaller than one unit cell can be formed with an interesting `failure' of Bragg's law. We end with a review of recent femtosecond X-ray `snapshot' diffraction from protein nanocrystals, using an X-ray laser which generates pulses so short that they terminate before radiation damage can commence, yet subsequently destroy the sample. In this way, using short pulses instead of freezing, the nexus between dose, resolution and crystal size has been broken, opening the way to time-resolved diffraction without damage for a stream of identical particles.

Keywords: Bragg's law; microdiffraction; convergent-beam electron diffraction; CBED; X-ray lasers; time-resolved diffraction.

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Presentation by John Spence at the Bragg Centennial Symposium, Adelaide, 6 December 2012


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