Skip to main content
BioSAXS in tunnel

Biological small angle X-ray scattering beamline (BioSAXS)

BioSAXS is a high flux beamline dedicated to perform all types of solution small angle scattering (SAXS) experiments, with applications in biology, chemistry, material sciences, and other research fields; offering access to a variety of researchers from Australia and New Zealand.

Beamline Updates

September 2021 - Good progress on BioSAXS despite lockdown challenges

Despite the many challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, individuals and organisations are managing to make progress on important projects.

The addition of six new beamlines as part of Project Bright at the Australian Synchrotron was impacted shortly after work had started on the many stages needed to order and install the new technology.

Lead scientist on the BioSAXS beamline, Dr Christina Kamma-Lorger remains optimistic that new instrument will be operational by the second half of next year.

An issue arose this year when chaos in the Port of Singapore impacted by the blockage in the Suez Canal, caused some early delays. The lead shielding was transported to Australia by ship from Innospec Prüfsystem GmbH (Dresden, Germany).

“The first components, protective shielding for the instrument, started arriving in mid-August. A supervising technician from the vendor who supplied them went into quarantine, while our team started assembling the structure,” said Kamma-Lorger.

Hutch A, a teal-coloured rectangular container, is now assembled with work on Hutch B underway.

“The instruments around the new beamline are very sensitive to vibrations, so that called for extra care with the positioning work,” she said.

The next step after Hutch B is assembled is the installation of utilities, possibly by late November.

Subsequent work will involve the addition of the user cabin and photon delivery system.

“The very last stage is  the installation of the insertion device in the storage ring,” said Kamma-Lorger.

She added that the great effort by internal engineering, computing and technical teams, in collaboration with local and overseas vendors,  has driven progress on the installation of the 40-metre beamline.

“After the instrument is commissioned next year, our users will have access to a high-flux beamline that can be used to study chemical and biological systems at the nanoscale.

“Even samples that are highly sensitive to radiation can be studied using the CoFlow sample environment developed at the Australian Synchrotron,” she added.

BioSAXS built up

    Capability Summary and Techniques

    The BioSAXS Beamline will enable the study of nanoscale chemical and biological systems in solution, including surfactant and lipid mesophase systems, proteins and protein complexes.

    BioSAXS will allow highly radiation-sensitive samples to be studied using unprecedented levels of flux.  This will be achieved using the CoFlow sample environment, developed at the Australian Synchrotron. The beamline will offer high-throughput and excellent data quality, for all liquid phase scattering experiments, allowing measurement of new and novel samples, and experiments that otherwise would not be possible. The BioSAXS beamline aims to accommodate most solution SAXS experiments for a wide range of particle sizes (up to several hundred nm) by offering a q-range of ~ 0.0013 – 4 Å-1, with low instrument background and an optical design optimized for high flux X-rays (>1014 ph/s).

    To achieve this, the beamline will consist of a superconducting undulator (SCU) insertion device, a double multilayer monochromator, as well as vertical and horizontal beam focusing mirrors. The beamline will maintain the flexibility to allow a wide range of optical options.  For purposes of controlling dose (minimising radiation damage), the beamline will primarily collect data in a vertically unfocussed mode, offering a beamsize of 0.3 mm (H) x 0.4 mm (V).  If needed, it will be able to achieve a focused beam size of 0.3 mm (H) x 0.03 mm (V). The beamline will also focus on a variety of dedicated high-quality sample environments offering high throughput data collection, and systems for automatic processing and analysis of data.

    In vacuum SAX detector system 2
    In vacuum SAXS detector system for BioSAXS end station

    Sample environments up to 100 kg can be accommodated on a 750 × 400 mm2 sample table with a wide range of automated motion for easy alignment. Options will be made available for rheometry, microfluidics, temperature and pressure control with multiple sample positions and application of external fields, allowing for automated, high-throughput in-situ studies of liquid phase systems. The BioSAXS beamline will be built with a high degree of versatility at the sample position, and users are strongly encouraged to discuss their own custom in-situ experiment set-ups with the BioSAXS team.

    Data will be acquired with an automated in-vacuum detector system, allowing for versatile and rapid change of SAXS camera length. A wide Q-range can be covered easily and quickly by changing camera length, as the detector can be commanded to traverse the full length of the vacuum vessel in just a few minutes. A fast detector will be used to provide time resolution on the scale of milliseconds, which can be used to study sample dynamics.

    BioSAX schematic

    BioSAXS Core Capabilities

    • Low scatter/low concentration protein samples with automated sample changer (CoFlow) for batch measurements
    • Time-resolved experiments studying chemical reactions, protein interactions, etc using stopped-flow device
    • Microfluidics and rheology experiments with Rheo-SAXS system
    • Size exclusion chromatography (SEC)
    • Linkam capillary cell for temperature variation studies
    • Sonochemistry using focused ultrasound
    • Electromagnets for studying ferrofluids/magnetic nanoparticles

    Scientific Applications

    BioSAXS will perform a wide variety of solution and soft matter Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) experiments and will cover a wide range of disciplines ranging from biology to chemistry and material sciences. Examples include: 

    Macromolecular biological structures and protein folding
    • Low resolution protein structure and folding can be studied using SAXS.  Unlike protein studies using crystallography, protein studies in solution are a dynamic systems that permits changes in the conditions in situ and the investigation of structural changes in proteins in real time. This is of great importance in the field of biomedicine and the study of various diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer etc, as well as in the design of new pharmaceutical agents
    • Time-resolved experiments of protein-protein interactions, as well as nucleic acid-protein interactions and enzymatic reactions are key for understanding of biological processes, as well as the development of new therapeutic approaches in a variety of diseases
    Soft matter
    • Surfactants have a wide range of applications, particularly in the formation of liposomes, micelles and other structures with applications in drug delivery and nanomedicine. These assemblies have features on multiple length-scales that can be observed using SAXS, from surface ordering in surfactant bilayers to the overall structures of liposome materials
    • Amphiphilic block copolymers tend to self-assemble in different solvents, depending on a range of parameters including temperature, concentration, pH and solvent choice. These can sometimes form polymer micelles, which have potential applications in drug delivery systems, and nanomedicine, as smart switching enables controlled uptake and release. The structure and assembly dynamics of these systems can be studied in-situ with SAXS
    • Amphiphilic lipids can also form highly structured liquid crystalline matrices in the presence of surfactants and nanoparticles, offering a wide range of applications such as photocatalytic and photothermal conversions as well as drug delivery and release strategies. Near infrared exposure can trigger changes in lipid packing and phase that can be studied in situ on a dynamic fashion using SAXS.  Lipids also form the fundamental building block of our cellular membranes, the structure and function of which can be studied using SAXS
    • Liposome structure optimisation and ability to carry medicinal agents can also be studied using SAXS. This area is of particular interest in the field of drug delivery
    Rheology, flow and microfluidics
    • Understanding the mechanical response of colloidal fluids is important in a number of areas including food science, polymers, and materials science.  The viscosity of a colloidal suspension is strongly dependent on numerous parameters, including the size and flexibility of the constituent particles. Rheo-SAXS can be used to simultaneously observe flow-induced orientational ordering and its influence on the viscosity and rheology of the system
    • Rapid kinetics of numerous systems (particularly colloids and self-assembling surfactants) can be studied using the stopped-flow apparatus with SAXS. As acquisition can be synchronized with the mixing process, formation reactions can be studied on millisecond time scales, along with sample responses to rapid “jumps” in temperature, pH or dilution
    • Microfluidics can be used to study the flow response of complex fluids, especially solutions and colloids that are non-Newtonian. Microfluidics with SAXS can generate nanoscale structural information of systems under flow, including dilute polymer solutions, surfactant solutions, microemulsions and lipid bilayers
    • Shear flow sample environment would permit the study of tubulin structure and assembly capabilities under normal and diseased conditions as well as the effect of medicinal agents in tubulin assembly. This type of studies have an important role in biomedicine and the development of antitumor drugs that modulate protein dynamics
    Nanoparticles and aggregations
    • Interparticle interactions between surface coated nanoparticles can be understood with SAXS, as complex aggregate structures can be observed on multiple length-scales depending on whether the surfactants are attractive or repulsive
    • Dilute dispersions of magnetic nanoparticles with complex shapes (e.g., dumbbells, stars or nanoflowers) or core-shell structures have immense potential in biomedical applications, such as magnetic drug delivery and/or magnetic hyperthermia (the delivery of heat to a cancer tumour via targeted magnetic nanoparticles). SAXS can provide high-resolution measurements of the particle form-factors (including size and shape) and can be used to study ordered long-range structures induced upon application of magnetic fields

    Technical Information and Specifications

    BioSAXS is designed to deliver a high brilliance beam at sample position. The beamline will operate on a fully focused, partially focused or unfocused beam mode in order to control dose and radiation damage at samples.

    Technical Specifications

    View BioSAX Technical Specifications

    Energy range


    8-15 keV

    Bandwidth (ΔE/E)


    1 %



    Superconducting Undulator (SCU)



    1.084 T


    No of periods




    16 mm





    VFM and HFM

    Rh coating for reflectivity

    Beam characteristics at
    sample position

    Beam size

    300 x 800 µm2 (un-focused beam)

    300 x 30 µm2 (fully focused beam)



    >1014 ph/sec at 200 mA at 12.4 keV



    In vacuum 8 m vessel



    In-vacuum movable detector system

    172 µm2 pixel size

    25 Hz frame rate


    Q-range (expected at 12.4 keV)

    0.0013-4 Å -1

    Beamline status

    View Beamline status

    Current status:  The Photon Delivery System (PDS) and insertion device (SCU) procurement phase is underway  



    2018 April

    Investment case was approved

    2019 March

    Conceptual Design Report completed

    2019 December

    Tender submitted for superconducting undulator insertion device

    2020 February

    Tender submitted for the BioSAXS radiation enclosures (hutches)

    2020 March

    Tender submitted for the Photon Delivery System (PDS)

    2020 April

    Superconducting undulator tender awarded to Billfinger



    2020 June

    BioSAXS photon delivery system tender awarded to FMB Oxford


    BioSAXS radiation enclosures (hutches) tender to be awarded


    BioSAXS end station to be purchased


    BioSAXS radiation enclosures (hutches) to be installed


    BioSAXS endstation to be installed


    BioSAXS PDS to be installed


    BioSAXS superconductive undulator to be installed


    Beamline hot commissioning, includes expert users

    *2022 Q3

    First User Experiments; Beamline fully commissioned over the next 12 months

    * Some delays due to covid-19 are possible but not built into the schedule at this time 

    Beamline layout

    BioSAX Photon delivery system
    Proposed schematic of the BioSAXS photon delivery system (courtesy of FMB Oxford-subject to change after PDR)


    •  Mr Gonzalo Conesa-Zamora – Project Manager
    • Dr Christina Kamma-Lorger – Lead Scientist
    • Dr Lester Barnsley – Beamline Scientist
    • Dr Andrew Clulow - Beamline Scientist 
    • Mr Sudharshan Venkatesan – Lead Engineer
    • Ms Christina Magoulas – Senior Scientific Software Engineer
    • Mr Clinton Roy – Senior Scientific Software Engineer

    Beamline Advisory Panel

    • A/Prof. Duncan McGillivray (Chair) – Auckland University, New Zealand
    • Dr Javier Perez - Soleil Synchrotron, France
    • Dr Lachlan Casey – University of Queensland
    • A/Prof. James Murphy - Walter+Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Victoria
    • Dr Ann Kwan - University of Sydney
    • Dr Tim Ryan – ANSTO
    • Prof. Ben Boyd – Monash University
    • A/Prof. Tamar Greaves – RMIT University