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Incoherent x-ray scattering in single molecule imaging
Jan Malte Slowik, Sang-Kil Son, Gopal Dixit, Zoltan Jurek, and Robin Santra
New J. Phys. 16, 073042 (2014)
Imaging of the structure of single proteins or other biomolecules with atomic resolution would be enormously beneficial to structural biology. X-ray free-electron lasers generate highly intense and ultrashort x-ray pulses, providing a route towards imaging of single molecules with atomic resolution. The information on molecular structure is encoded in the coherent x-ray scattering signal. In contrast to crystallography there are no Bragg reflections in single molecule imaging, which means the coherent scattering is not enhanced. Consequently, a background signal from incoherent scattering deteriorates the quality of the coherent scattering signal. This background signal cannot be easily eliminated because the spectrum of incoherently scattered photons cannot be resolved by usual scattering detectors. We present an ab initio study of incoherent x-ray scattering from individual carbon atoms, including the electronic radiation damage caused by a highly intense x-ray pulse. We find that the coherent scattering pattern suffers from a significant incoherent background signal at high resolution. For high x-ray fluence the background signal becomes even dominating. Finally, based on the atomic scattering patterns, we present an estimation for the average photon count in single molecule imaging at high resolution. By varying the photon energy from 3.5 keV to 15 keV, we find that imaging at higher photon energies may improve the coherent scattering signal quality.