Scientists based in Palo Alto, California, have accomplished a major feat: They have produced brilliant X-ray light from a device just a fraction of the standard size. The advance could transform numerous fields of biomedical research by vastly improving access to a key resource for studying the properties of molecules.
Researchers who want to know the structures of molecules, such as proteins, use synchrotrons--facilities as big as football stadiums that produce intense X-ray beams. But because of the size and cost of synchrotrons, only a few exist. To make the technology more widely available, scientists at Lyncean Technologies, Inc., have been constructing a synchrotron prototype since 2004 that would produce X-ray beams in the space of a small office and that could be installed at many research institutions. The prototype, called the Compact Light Source (CLS), demonstrated its feasibility by generating its first X-ray beam on February 23, 2006.
The scientists soon will begin using the prototype to collect experimental data. The first Beta CLS will be installed at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, as part of a Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) center aimed at accelerating the determination of protein structures.
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