A beginner's Guide to Radiation Damage

In the March 2009 Journal of Synchrotron Radiation special issue on radiation damage, in addition to authoring two papers, our illustrious James Holton's ankle appears on the cover!

The first paper deals with the practical aspects of controlling and understanding radiation damage and will be very interesting to crystallographers who would like to collect data more intelligently.

Holton J.M. "A beginner's guide to radiation damage" Journal of Synchrotron Radiation 2009;16(2):133-142

Many advances in the understanding of radiation damage to protein crystals, particularly at cryogenic temperatures, have been made in recent years, but with this comes an expanding literature, and, to the new breed of protein crystallographer who is not really interested in X-ray physics or radiation chemistry but just wants to solve a biologically relevant structure, the technical nature and breadth of this literature can be daunting. The purpose of this paper is to serve as a rough guide to radiation damage issues, and to provide references to the more exacting and detailed work. No attempt has been made to report precise numbers (a factor of two is considered satisfactory), and, since there are aspects of radiation damage that are demonstrably unpredictable, the "worst case scenario" as well as the "average crystal" are discussed in terms of the practicalities of data collection.

The second paper deals with the intricacies of accurately measuring and comparing photon flux at different synchrotron beamlines using different PIN diodes and is more geared towards the beamline scientist.

Owen R.L., Holton J.M., Schulze-Briese C. and Garman E.F. "Determination of X-ray flux using silicon pin diodes." Journal of Synchrotron Radiation 2009;16(2):143-151

Accurate measurement of photon flux from an X-ray source, a parameter required to calculate the dose absorbed by the sample, is not yet routinely available at macromolecular crystallography beamlines. The development of a model for determining the photon flux incident on pin diodes is described here, and has been tested on the macromolecular crystallography beamlines at both the Swiss Light Source, Villigen, Switzerland, and the Advanced Light Source, Berkeley, USA, at energies between 4 and 18 keV. These experiments have shown that a simple model based on energy deposition in silicon is sufficient for determining the flux incident on high-quality silicon pin diodes. The derivation and validation of this model is presented, and a web-based tool for the use of the macromolecular crystallography and wider synchrotron community is introduced.

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