Rapid microfluidic mixing and liquid jets for studying biomolecular chemical dynamics (2018)
X-ray Free-Electron Lasers (XFELs) offer a unique opportunity to study the structural dynamics of proteins on a femtosecond time-scale. To realize the full potential of XFEL sources for studying time-resolved biomolecular processes however, requires the optimization and development of devices that can both act as a trigger and a delivery mechanism for the system of interest. Here we present numerical simulations and actual devices exploring the conditions required for the development of successful mixing and injection devices for tracking the molecular dynamics of proteins in solution on micro to nanosecond timescales using XFELs. The mechanism for combining reagents employs a threefold combination of pico-liter volumes, lamination and serpentine mixing. Focusing and delivering the sample in solution is achieved using the Gas Dynamic Virtual Nozzle (GDVN), which was specifically developed to produce a micrometer diameter, in-vacuum liquid jet. We explore the influence of parameters such as flow rate and gas pressure on the mixing time and jet stability, and explore the formation of rapid homogeneously mixed jets for ‘mix-and-inject’ liquid scattering experiments at Synchrotron and XFEL facilities.