Serial snapshot crystallography for materials science with SwissFEL
New opportunities for studying (sub) microcrystalline materials with small unit cells, both organic and inorganic, will open up when the X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) presently being constructed in Switzerland (SwissFEL) comes online in 2017. Our synchrotron-based experiments mimicking the 4%-energy-bandpass mode of the SwissFEL beam show that it will be possible to record a diffraction pattern of up to 10 randomly oriented crystals in a single snapshot, to index the resulting reflections, and to extract their intensities reliably. The crystals are destroyed with each XFEL pulse, but by combining snapshots from several sets of crystals, a complete set of data can be assembled, and crystal structures of materials that are difficult to analyze otherwise will become accessible. Even with a single shot, at least a partial analysis of the crystal structure will be possible, and with 10-50 femtosecond pulses, this offers tantalizing possibilities for time-resolved studies.