ray portraits of living bacteria

February 11, 2015 3:09 PM

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Researchers working at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory accomplished the feat by spraying the bacteria -- cyanobacteria, a common blue-green algae -- as a gas stream via a gun-like aerosol device. The stream of bacteria is shot into the path of a rapid-fire X-ray pulse which, and as the millions of bacteria particles pass, detectors pick up diffraction patterns.

These diffractions pick up and preserve details of the bacteria's inner workings, which are then used to reassemble 2-D portraits using high-tech computer models. Researchers say the same technique will eventually be able to render 3-D imagery of the living bacterial particles.

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