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Automated sample-changing robot for solution scattering experiments at the EMBL Hamburg SAXS station X33

: Round, Adam R.; Franke, Daniel; Moritz, Sandra; Huchler, Roland; Fritsche, Michael; Malthan, Dirk; Kläring, Robbert; Svergun, Dimitri I.; Roessle, Manfred


Journal of Applied Crystallography 41 (2008), No.5, pp.913-917
ISSN: 0021-8898
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IPA ()
Liquid Handling; small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS); Proteinkristallographie; automated liquid handling; Röntgenkristallographie; Kristallographie; Flüssigkeit; Handhaben; Automatisierung; Röntgenstrahlung

There is a rapidly increasing interest in the use of synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) for large-scale studies of biological macromolecules in solution, and this requires an adequate means of automating the experiment. A prototype has been developed of an automated sample changer for solution SAXS, where the solutions are kept in thermostatically controlled well plates allowing for operation with up to 192 samples. The measuring protocol involves controlled loading of protein solutions and matching buffers, followed by cleaning and drying of the cell between measurements. The system was installed and tested at the X33 beamline of the EMBL, at the storage ring DORIS-III (DESY, Hamburg), where it was used by over 50 external groups during 2007. At X33, a throughput of approximately 12 samples per hour, with a failure rate of sample loading of less than 0.5%, was observed. The feedback from users indicates that the ease of use and reliability of the user operation at the beamline were greatly improved compared with the manual filling mode. The changer is controlled by a client-server-based network protocol, locally and remotely. During the testing phase, the changer was operated in an attended mode to assess its reliability and convenience. Full integration with the beamline control software, allowing for automated data collection of all samples loaded into the machine with remote control from the user, is presently being implemented. The approach reported is not limited to synchrotron-based SAXS but can also be used on laboratory and neutron sources.