Available Technology

Spatial Phase Imaging

Frequently, scientists grow the crystals by dissolving a protein in a specific liquid solution, and then allowing that solution to evaporate. The methods used next have been, variously, invasive (adding a dye that is absorbed by the protein), destructive (crushing protein/salt-crystal mixtures and observing differences between the crushing of salt and protein), or costly and time-consuming (X-ray crystallography). In contrast to these methods, a new technology for monitoring protein growth, developed in part through NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding with Marshall Space Flight Center, is noninvasive, nondestructive, rapid, and more cost effective than X-ray analysis. The partner for this SBIR, Photon-X, Inc., of Huntsville, Alabama, developed spatial phase imaging technology that can monitor crystal growth in real time, and in an automated mode. Spatial phase imaging scans for flaws quickly and produces a 3-D structured image of a crystal, showing volumetric growth analysis for future automated growth. It can measure the characteristics of a crystal and the crystal's 3-D volumetric properties, and can also discriminate between salt and protein crystals. The target market for Photon-X's spatial phase imaging technology includes pharmaceutical companies, as well as laboratories at the academic, commercial, structural, and governmental levels; but this technology is very desirable to anyone who routinely sets up hundreds or thousands of crystallization experiments on a daily basis, and it is more cost effective than X-ray analysis. Photon-X has also used this innovative technology to develop commercial 3-D cameras for various machine vision, and automated 3-D vision systems.
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