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Exploring nanoscale motion and molecular alignment using ultrafast coherent diffraction (X-MOTION)
Start date: Jan 1, 2011, End date: Dec 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Single particle imaging requires that identical objects would be successively exposed to powerful coherent X-ray pulses, and diffraction `snapshots' collected at unknown object orientations. However determining the orientations of the individual low-signal diffraction patterns and hence reconstructing the diffraction volume require much more signal than available. To circumvent the difficulty, we propose in X-Motion to orient a single molecule or nanoparticle to improve the diffracted signal and to achieve a 3-D reconstruction. Azobenzene derived polymers (AZOs) motion could be used to align the system. Practically, the isomerization of an azobenzene chromophore induces a large molecular length change that is well suited to power and actuate nanoscale or molecular motions. Our project proposes to use AZOs properties to manipulate and align other systems like single nanorods or isolated molecules (proteins for example). We will use ultrafast coherent X-ray diffraction in a pump-probe scheme to follow in real time the isomerization induced alignment. X-Motion network will gather experimentalists and theoreticians from France, Germany, and the United States, all interested in imaging individual particles and molecules using state of the art soft and hard X-ray coherent sources. The partners have competency in ultrafast coherent imaging, nanoscale fabrication, chemistry (polymers, femtochemistry, aerosols), X-ray spectroscopy and theoretical calculations. This synergy between these domains is essential to address the issue of single particle alignment and imaging. X-Motion will involve FLASH soft X-ray free electron laser facility in Hamburg (Germany), LCLS at Stanford (USA), 3rd generation ALS synchrotron at Berkeley (USA) and table-top ultrafast laser harmonic in CEA Saclay near Paris (France). This will give access to a wide range of photon energies and pulse duration.

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