MICRO-PATTERNED Silicon Chips for serial Crystallography

Silicon Chip sample holders

For serial crystallography experiments at LABORATORY sources, synchrotrons and XFELs

A critical parameter in diffraction experiments is the signal-to-noise ratio and the related achievable resolution. Our silicon chips allow performing diffraction experiments with minimal background scattering levels. Depending on size and geometry of the chips, they can hold up 200 000 microcrystals for serial crystallography experiments. Thanks to the use of monocrystalline silicon substrate the chips themselves do not contribute to any background scattering except for positions at Bragg reflections at resolutions below 3.2 Å. The pore structure further allows highly efficient removal of excess liquid by blotting. As a consequence, diffraction results obtained with our chips are typically of higher quality than achievable with conventional loop mounting.

Application areas

  • Serial crystallography experiments at room temperature and cryogenic temperatures
  • On-chip crystallization for data collection from highly sensitive crystals
  • Pharmaceutical screening experiments with on-chip co-crystallization with compounds or on-chip fragment soaking
  • Conventional single-crystal X-ray data collection from large crystals in combination with a humidity sleeve

Silicon Chip concept

  • Samples (microcrystals) are immobilized on a thin 10 µm microporous monocrystalline silicon membrane
  • The use of a microporous silicon membrane allows efficient removal of mother liquor by blotting, and thus minimal background scattering levels are achieved
  • A liquid reservoir integrated into the chip holder in combination with a protective cover allows keeping the crystals hydrated and protects them drying out.
  • By using a standard magnetic mount the chips are compatible with any standard crystallography goniometer

Crystal loading principle

A – A small volume of a micro-crystal suspension is pipetted onto the chip membrane

B – A small wedge of filter paper is applied to the bottom side of the chip

C – The filter paper soaks off the liquid through the micro channels

D – Crystals with sizes larger than the pores are retained and arrange themselves in a periodic way according to the pore structure of the chip

E – The filter paper is removed from the lower side of the chip

F – The crystals on the chip can be either flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen or the sample holder can be equipped with a protective cover (not shown)

Important: During the entire sample loading process, it is required to keep the chip in a continuous air-stream providing a controlled relative humidity environment.

Reference: Roedig, P. et al. A micro-patterned silicon chip as sample holder for macromolecular crystallography experiments with minimal background scattering. Sci. Rep. 5, 10451; doi: 10.1038/srep10451 (2015). Picture on the right side: „Sample loading procedure“ by Roedig, P. et al., licensed under CC BY 4.0 / Desaturated from original

Available CHIP types

Tailored to your needs

We can manufacture the chip according to your needs. Membrane thickness, pore size and chip surface area can be fully customized to your requirements. We have extensive experience with diffraction experiments and are happy to consult with you to reach an optimal design.

Integration into the suna ecosystem

Ideally suited for high-speed fixed target serial crystallography in combination with the Roadrunner goniometer
Well combinable with our humidity generator HG-1 for the exploration of relative humidity and temperature as additional environmental parameters in X-ray crystallography.


Picture on the left side: “X-ray background level originating from the silicon chip” by Roedig, P. et al.,
licensed under CC BY 4.0. Source: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep10451/figures/3