Download citation
Download citation
link to html
A new era of protein crystallography started when X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) came into operation, as these provide an intense source of X-rays that facilitates data collection in the `diffract-before-destroy' regime. In typical experiments, crystals sequentially delivered to the beam are exposed to X-rays and destroyed. Therefore, the novel approach of serial crystallography requires thousands of nearly identical samples. Currently applied sample-delivery methods, in particular liquid jets or drop-on-demand systems, suffer from significant sample consumption of the precious crystalline material. Direct protein microcrystal growth by the vapour diffusion technique inside arrays of nanolitre-sized wells is a method specifically tailored to crystallography at XFELs. The wells, with X-ray transparent Si3N4 windows as bottoms, are fabricated in silicon chips. Their reduced dimensions can significantly decrease protein specimen consumption. Arrays provide crystalline samples positioned in an ordered way without the need to handle fragile crystals. The nucleation process inside these microfabricated cavities was optimized to provide high membrane coverage and a quasi-random crystal distribution. Tight sealing of the chips and protection of the crystals from dehydration were achieved, as confirmed by diffraction experiments at a protein crystallography beamline. Finally, the test samples were shown to be suitable for time-resolved measurements at an XFEL at femtosecond resolution.

Supporting information


Portable Document Format (PDF) file
Table of crystallization conditions, and extra figures


Quicktime video file
Short film

PDB reference: lysozyme, 5ne0

Follow J. Appl. Cryst.
Sign up for e-alerts
Follow J. Appl. Cryst. on Twitter
Follow us on facebook
Sign up for RSS feeds