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Electrons from Ultracold Atoms: a New Source for Diffractive Imaging of Biomolecules

A/Professor Robert Scholten

School of Physics, University of Melbourne

3:30 pm Friday, 13 June 2008, EN101 (Ground Floor, EN Building), Hawthorn.

“Ultracold plasma” is almost an oxymoron. But neutral atoms can be laser-cooled to microkelvin temperatures, and then photoionised, to produce an ultracold plasma, with electron temperatures of a few Kelvin. From those cold electrons, we can produce a beam of electron bunches with extremely high spatial coherence, sufficient to enable diffractive determination of structures the size of a protein molecule or even an entire virus with sub-nm resolution. The cold atom technology at the heart of the new source will also allow us to mediate the effects of space-charge repulsion of the electrons within the beam, by shaping the atomic cloud and hence the initial charge bunch.

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