Diffraction instrumentation team
The Cipriani team develops instruments and methods for X-ray scattering experiments and works with industry to make them available to scientists worldwide.
Previous and current research
Our team develops instruments and methods for X-ray scattering experiments in collaboration with the EMBL Synchrotron Crystallography Team and the ESRF Structural Biology group, as well as contributing to the development of the EMBL@PETRA-III beamlines in Hamburg. An important aspect of our work is to transfer our technologies to industry to make these instruments available to the scientific community worldwide.
In Grenoble, the ESRF’s MX beamlines still rely on our MD2/MD2M diffractometers, SC3 sample changers and C3D crystal centering software to process several hundred crystals per day. Continuing the work carried out over the last decade on micro-diffractometers, a collaboration is under way with EMBL Hamburg to build a vertical kappa diffractometer able to process routinely micron-sized crystals. The prototype installed at EMBL@PETRA-III on the MX2 micro-focus beamline exhibits sub-micron stability at sample position. The quality of data obtained from shutterless 4D data collection scans over thin needles has demonstrated the exceptional dynamic performance of the system. This prototype is the base of a new diffractometer generation (MD3) that should include all the features of the MD2 micro-diffractometer.
Concluding a collaboration started in 2008, we have equipped the ESRF BM29 and the EMBL@PETRA-III BioSAXS beamlines with fast, fully integrated sample environments. Users can now automatically process several hundred samples stored in SBS micro-plates within a minute. To characterise difficult proteins and complexes before any degradation occurs, a project has started (part-supported by the EU program BioStruct-X) to couple the Sample Exposure Unit of the system with an online HPLC device.
Our current work mainly focuses on the development of a crystal harvesting system based on CrystalDirect (CD), a concept conceived jointly with the Márquez team. Crystals grown on a thin film, in specific vapour diffusion crystallisation plates are recovered by photo ablation (see figure). The CD plates can be set up by standard robotics used at HTX facilities. Designed for automated harvesting they are also ideal for X-ray in-plate crystal screening. A first batch of CD plates has been produced and a basic harvester built to develop the harvesting and post harvesting processes. Motivated by the increasing flow of samples at MX beamlines and by the emergence of automated harvesters, studies have started to develop a compact and precise sample holder for frozen crystals. Lead by the EMBL Grenoble, this ‘NewPin’ collaborative project is part-supported by BioStruct-X.
Future projects and goals
In the context of the ESRF MASSIF upgrade program, we plan to equip the EMBL/ESRF BM14 beamline with industrial robotics to test the ‘NewPin’ sample-holder standard and to evaluate in situ CD plate crystal screening. Our long-term ambition is to bridge, via CrystalDirect, the Grenoble HTX lab and BM14 in a pilot automated MX facility that can provide full remote service – from crystallisation to data collection.