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X-ray Image Bank Open for Business

February 22, 2011

Contact: Margie Wylie, mwylie@lbl.gov , 510.486.7421


Filipe Maia

Filipe Maia is building a data bank where scientists from around the world can deposit and share images generated by coherent x-ray light sources. A post-doctoral researcher with the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Maia hopes the Coherent X-ray Imaging Data Bank, or CXIDB (http://www.cxidb.org) can help researchers make the most of their valuable data.

Scientists use light sources to shoot intense x-ray beams into molecules, such as proteins, in order to understand their shapes and structures. The resulting diffraction patterns are painstakingly reconstructed to deduce an image. "It kind of works like a microscope, but it has no lens," Maia says. He works on the analysis software that reassembles diffraction patterns into an image—a software lens, of sorts.

"Until now, very few groups have had access to this kind of data," says Maia. He hopes the data bank will "maximize the impact of imaging data by making it easy to distribute to the community." As a result,"researchers who may not have access to experiments can use it for testing new ideas, improving on an analysis or other things we can't imagine now," Maia explains.

To get the ball rolling, the NERSC Petascale Post-doc uploaded data from one of two papers he coauthored in the February 3, 2011 issue of the journal Nature. These first images involved the historic, direct x-ray imaging of a living organism, a virus, at the Linear Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at Stanford.

As the next generation of x-ray sources goes online, sharing data will become a necessity, says Maia. "Free electron laser facilities, like the LCLS, can produce up to 20 terabytes of data in one day, and the coming European XFEL (X-ray Free Electron Laser) is expected to do 500 times that," he says. "We're going to have to distribute the analysis of that much data to make it manageable, and this repository could be a key part of that process."

Read the Nature Paper:
Single mimivirus particles intercepted and imaged with an X-ray laser
Femtosecond x-ray protein nanocrystallography

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

High performance computing plays a critical role in scientific discovery. Researchers increasingly rely on advances in computer science, mathematics, computational science, data science, and large-scale computing and networking to increase our understanding of ourselves, our planet, and our universe. Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences Area researches, develops, and deploys new foundations, tools, and technologies to meet these needs and to advance research across a broad range of scientific disciplines.