The macromolecular crystallography beamline BioMAX have for the first time been running their sample changer on a regular basis. The robot has been changing 320 samples for four user groups within its first two weeks of operation.
At a macromolecular crystallography beamline, the samples are biological molecules. One example is the proteins which are the targets of pharmaceutical drug development to act in our bodies. To acquire a structure at an atomic scale of such a large complex protein molecule, many hundred samples needs to be brought in the X-ray beam and studied.
Each measurement has to be conducted in the short time before the sample is damaged by the intense X-ray beam. Removing a sample from the X-ray beam and replacing it with the next is a job for the sample changer robot. The samples waiting to be measured are stored in a liquid nitrogen dewar since cryo-cooled samples will last longer in the beam.
BioMAX has an ISARA sample changer (IRELEC, France) which can hold 400 samples in liquid nitrogen. Changing one sample takes 30 seconds. The beamline team is now working on further ensuring the reliability and optimizing the performance of the sample changer. The sample changer together with the control software MXCuBE3 will also be prepared for remote operation. This means that users could send their samples to MAX IV and then do the experiment from home without the need to travel to the beamline.
5x normal speed video of the sample changer in operation. The sample changer takes a sample from the liquid nitrogen bath. It removes the measured sample and replaces it with the new one – all in one step. Then it puts the removed sample back in the nitrogen bath. Video by Uwe Müller.