Controlled Beams of Shock-Frozen, Isolated, Biological and Artificial Nanoparticles

Struct Dyn. 2020 Apr 17;7(2):024304. doi: 10.1063/4.0000004. eCollection 2020 Mar.


X-ray free-electron lasers promise diffractive imaging of single molecules and nanoparticles with atomic spatial resolution. This relies on the averaging of millions of diffraction patterns of identical particles, which should ideally be isolated in the gas phase and preserved in their native structure. Here, we demonstrated that polystyrene nanospheres and Cydia pomonella granulovirus can be transferred into the gas phase, isolated, and very quickly shock-frozen, i.e., cooled to 4 K within microseconds in a helium-buffer-gas cell, much faster than state-of-the-art approaches. Nanoparticle beams emerging from the cell were characterized using particle-localization microscopy with light-sheet illumination, which allowed for the full reconstruction of the particle beams, focused to < 100 μ m , as well as for the determination of particle flux and number density. The experimental results were quantitatively reproduced and rationalized through particle-trajectory simulations. We propose an optimized setup with cooling rates for particles of few-nanometers on nanosecond timescales. The produced beams of shock-frozen isolated nanoparticles provide a breakthrough in sample delivery, e.g., for diffractive imaging and microscopy or low-temperature nanoscience.