National Center for X-Ray Tomography

About the Resource

The National Center for X-Ray Tomography (NCXT), at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), is leading the development of soft X-ray tomography (SXT) as a technique for imaging fully-hydrated biological specimens at high, three-dimensional (3D) spatial resolution. SXT has several distinct advantages over light- and electron-based microscopies and, as a result, can contribute unique insights into cell structure and behavior.

Soft X-rays penetrate biological materials much more deeply than electrons, allowing cells up to 15 µm thick to be imaged intact. SXT image contrast is generated by differential X-ray absorption by biomolecules, meaning that cells advantageously do not require exposure to staining or other potentially damaging procedures prior to being imaged. Consequently, SXT produces high-resolution specimen views that are in a close-to-native state.

SXT’s utility has increased dramatically with the concomitant development of high-aperture cryogenic fluorescence tomography (CFT). Cryo-preserved cells, or populations of cells, can now be imaged serially by two disparate tomographic methods. The combination of CFT and SXT allows labeled molecules to be positioned accurately and viewed directly in the context of a high-resolution, quantitative 3D tomographic cell reconstruction.

[**FUNDING INFORMATION GOES HERE**] NCXT is supported by BER and the National Institutes of Health.

About the Home Facility

The Advanced Light Source is a DOE scientific user facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory sponsored by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences. ALS is a specialized particle accelerator that generates bright beams of X-ray light for scientific research. Electron bunches travel at nearly the speed of light in a circular path, emitting ultraviolet and X-ray light in the process. The light is directed through about 40 beamlines to numerous experimental end stations, where scientists from around the world (“users”) can conduct research in a wide variety of fields, including materials science, biology, chemistry, physics, and the environmental sciences.

Co-located BER Resources

Other ALS Capabilities

ALS is home to several X-ray macromolecular crystallography (MX) beamlines. This technique can be used to visualize molecules at atomic resolution, enabling protein engineering, the design of therapeutics, and the fundamental understanding of enzyme mechanisms and protein function.