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Jet-propelled imaging for an ultrafast light source
Date:7/29/2009

Shot from a microcannon

The answer was what Spence calls a "particle gun, like an ink-jet printer," designed to inject a beam of water droplets across the tightly focused x-ray beam in single file, each droplet so small it contains only a single protein or virus. He and colleagues Bruce Doak and Uwe Weierstall of ASU designed a nozzle that can fire liquid droplets, each less than a millionth of a meter in diameter (one micrometer), faster than hundreds of thousands of times a second. The sample jet is designed to shoot droplets right through a pulsed beam of x-rays a billion times brighter than any ever created in a light source before.

ASU postdoc Dan DePonte did most of the hard work and refinement needed to realize the design. It wasn't easy. Nozzles made of solid material like glass invariably clog up, limiting droplets to at best 20 micrometers across. What Spence and his colleagues wanted was a jet of particles less than a micrometer in size.

Back in 1878 Lord Rayleigh, a professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University, discovered that a smooth, cylindrical jet of liquid emerging from an orifice spontaneously breaks up to form a train of spherical droplets. In the late 1990s, physicist Alfonso Gan-Calvo of the University of Seville found a way to surround the streaming liquid with pressurized gas to make a co-flowing liquid sheath. By adjusting gas and liquid pressure and other parameters, he was able to create a "virtual nozzle" that could shrink the diameter of the liquid jet to a thread so small it would not clog the physical aperture of the tube. In effect, the gas sheath acts to focus the liquid stream.

Spence and his colleagues needed a true microthread of liquid, however, one that produced droplets sized a millionth of a meter or less. In their nozzle, liquid flows through a narrow capillary inside the tube through which the gas flows; the liquid issues from the capillary some distance from the
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Contact: Paul Preuss
paul_preuss@lbl.gov
510-486-6249
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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