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A fully automated high-throughput solution X-ray scattering data collection system has been developed for protein structure studies at beamline 4-2 of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource. It is composed of a thin-wall quartz capillary cell, a syringe needle assembly on an XYZ positioning arm for sample delivery, a water-cooled sample rack and a computer-controlled fluid dispenser. It is controlled by a specifically developed software component built into the standard beamline control program Blu-Ice/DCS. The integrated system is intuitive and very simple to use, and enables experimenters to customize data collection strategy in a timely fashion in concert with an automated data processing program. The system also allows spectrophotometric determination of protein concentration for each sample aliquot in the beam via an in situ UV absorption spectrometer. A single set of solution scattering measurements requires a 20-30 µl sample aliquot and takes typically 3.5 min, including an extensive capillary cleaning cycle. Over 98.5% of measurements are valid and free from artefacts commonly caused by air-bubble contamination. The sample changer, which is compact and light, facilitates effortless switching with other sample-handling devices required for other types of non-crystalline X-ray scattering experiments.

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