Work developed within the NMI3 Joint Research Activity on Advanced Neutron Tools for Soft and Bio-Materials at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in France, is useful to researchers from all over the world. I have been to the ILL to learn how those techniques are used. The result is a video that shows us the steps taken by scientists before conducting a neutron experiment of biological samples.
Alessandra Luchini is a PhD student from the University of Naples in Italy. She was at the ILL to carry out a neutron reflectometry experiment and in the video she shows us how she prepares her samples in the ILL support laboratories. She can count on support from Giovanna Fragneto, who is the head of the Large Scale Structures and Soft Matter Science and Support groups at the ILL. Fragneto guided me through the labs to explain the steps taken before conducting neutron experiments.
The biomass from the deuteration laboratory goes in a chromatography system that separates the lipids according to their size, headgroups, and other characteristics. Once they are prepared, scientists need to produce vesicles that will be fused to form bilayers on solid substrates. This is done by sonicating the lipids to obtain very small vesicles that are put in contact with the solid surface. Quartz Crystal Microbalance measurements are used to to optimise conditions to form uniform bilayers on these surfaces. After all these steps the sample is ready to be measured in a neutron experiment.