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Spectral small-angle X-ray scattering (sSAXS)

An extension to the small-angle X-ray scattering technique that promises specific advantages in lab-based experiments.

What is Spectral small-angle X-ray scattering (sSAXS)

Spectral small-angle X-ray scattering (sSAXS) is an extension to the widely employed small-angle X-ray scattering technique (SAXS). SAXS is a technique that relies on the scattering of x-rays as they pass through a material. The resulting interference pattern of the scattered light can be use to derive the structure of the material, or confirm the presence of a particular species in the sample. Spectral Small Angle X-ray Scattering (sSAXS) is an extension to the standard SAXS technique that dispenses with the requirement for a monochromatic source of X-rays, employing a wide range of X-ray energies from a polychromatic source. The sSAXS technique is particularly useful for lab-based X-ray sources, which are limited in the flux of X-rays they can produce. Using a wider band of energies results in higher fluxes and enables techniques that would otherwise have not been practical.

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Advantages of sSAXS

SAXS can be applied to amorphous materials, thus samples can be analysed in their natural state. The sSAXS technique is particularly useful for lab-based X-ray sources, which are limited in the flux of X-rays they can produce. Using a wider band of energies results in higher fluxes and enables techniques that would otherwise have not been practical.

[A typical SAXS experimental setup. A narrowly collimated x-ray beam is aimed at the sample, creating a circularly symmetric intensity pattern on the detector, placed behind.]
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What information can be obtained from SAXS?

SAXS (and hence sSAXS) provides information on molecular and nanometer-scale structural information. Structures at this scale include the shape analysis of proteins in solution, DNA, RNA, and viruses. Structures that are difficult to probe, in the bulk, with any other technique. It is possible to inspect structures on this scale with techniques such as electron and scanning probe microscopy, but one would be restricted to the examination of a small number of each structure and thus risk statistically unreliable results. The information from SAXS, however, is the result of many structures and so is more statistically significant.

[An example of the data collected from a sSAXS experiment. See app note for further details. Reproduced under the Creative Commons 4.0 licence from Breedlove et al., Small-angle X-ray scattering characterization of a β-amyloid model in phantoms. Minor changes were made to match the style of this document. ]
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