Remote Collection

The Program

Beamline 4.2.2 was the first beamline at the ALS to offer full remote data collection to users starting in February 2007. All monochromatic, MAD/SAD, SIRAS, etc. experiments can be run remotely. Remote Collection has become the preferred method of data collection for members due to the flexibility of scheduling, ease of use, and the ability to use a synchrotron beamline in teaching and training students. Collections have been performed from a bakery in Colorado, a lab in Taipei, Taiwan, a hotel room in Osaka, Japan, and a house in Bangalore, India.


There is no set schedule for Consortium Members at beamline 4.2.2; instead, when a member has samples they request time and it is assigned as needed. Beamtime can be scheduled in as little as 4 hour blocks so that when crystals are ready beamtime is ready. Many find that using the information gained from screening 60 crystals in 4-8 hours allows them to optimize conditions much faster than before. Also, splitting up beamtime allows the experimenter to use information gained in the collection of one sample in the design of the next experiment.

One of the drawbacks of standard scheduling is the necessity of having enough samples to “fill the time”. Users have also been taught that only the best samples should go to the synchrotron. With the advent of remote collection, a new way of thinking about beamtime is possible. The over-arching idea is to increase overall lab productivity using the best tools available and this includes using beamtime for crystal optimization as well as structure solution.

The Process

Users contact beamline staff notifying an intention to ship samples and beamtime is coordinated. Time can range from 4 hours to 48 hours and can be broken up into separate blocks if desired. It is very rare that beamtime cannot be reserved within a week of first contact. Beamline staff are available at all steps of the process to help in data collection, processing or experimental design.

Samples are sent to Berkeley and mounted into a robot Dewar by beamline staff. At the assigned beamtime, the user logs-in to the beamline through a secure NX client and collects data as they would on-site via the Blu-Ice interface. Data processing is also done on-site with multiple programs available for data reduction, phasing and refinement available. Multiple users can log in at their convenience to a separate server and process data whether they have beamtime or not.

Main Points

  1. Beamtime on-demand
  2. Full beamline capabilities from home institution
  3. Processing in D*TREK, HKL2000, XDS, MOSFLM
  4. MIR, MAD/SAD, SIRAS and MIR experiments from home
  5. Cost savings compared to physical trips (flight, hotel, food, etc)