The researchers used ultra-short X-ray pulses from the world’s first free electron laser, at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, at Stanford University in California.
Professor Hajdu says that "Biologists have long dreamed of being able to capture the image of viruses, single-celled organisms and bacteria, without having to cut them up, freeze them, or stain them, as is necessary with electron microscopes." He tells Swedish Radio’s Science Department the breakthrough feels like science fiction.
The findings pave the way for studies at the molecular level, not just snapshots, but even movies of viruses and living bacteria.
Professor Hajdu first had the idea ten years ago, and since then the researchers have been developing the equipment. They performed their experiment in December 2009, just two months after the the electron laser opened for research. Their work has been published in the journal “Nature”.