CDI is an imaging technique where coherent light is made to diffract off the structure of a sample. When recorded on an area detector, the pattern formed by the diffracted light holds information about the sample structure. This can then be reconstructed from the diffraction pattern using computer algorithms. If a short wavelength is used, the light interacts with the local electron structure and the diffraction pattern can hold sufficient detail to allow the sample to be reconstructed with molecular or atomic resolution.
A particularly demanding CDI application is the single particle imaging of non-reproducible bioparticles such as living cells and giant viruses. This application requires exceptionally short and intense soft X-ray pulses that are intense enough to blow the sample up after it has diffracted the light. At ELI Beamlines, RA4 will use the unique capabilities of laser-driven X-ray sources to begin developing a method for getting more three-dimensional data from non-reproducible samples by simultaneously exposing the sample to beams from different directions.