µDrop: a system for high-throughput small-angle X-ray scattering measurements of microlitre samples

Richard Haider, Barbara Sartori, Andrea Radeticchio, Marcell Wolf, Simone Dal Zilio, Benedetta Marmiroli, Heinz Amenitsch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An automatic sample changer system for measurements of large numbers of liquid samples - the μDrop Sample Changer - is presented. It is based on a robotic arm equipped with a pipetting mechanism, which is combined with a novel drop-based sample holder. In this holder a drop of liquid is suspended between two parallel plates by surface tension. The absence of a transfer line benefits the cleaning, improving the background as well as making it faster and more efficient than most comparable capillary-based systems. The μDrop Sample Changer reaches cycle times below 35s and can process up to 480 samples in a single run. Sample handling is very reliable, with a drop misplacement chance of about 0.2%. Very low sample volumes (<20μl) are needed and repeatable measurements were performed down to 6μl. Using measurements of bovine serum albumin and lysozyme, the performance of the instrument and quality of the gathered data of low and high concentrations of proteins are presented. The temperature of samples can also be controlled during storage and during measurement, which is demonstrated by observing a phase transition of a mesophase-forming lipid solution. The instrument has been developed for use in small-angle X-ray scattering experiments, which is a well established technique for measuring (macro-)molecules. It is commonly used in biological studies, where often large sets of rare samples have to be measured.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-141
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Crystallography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • SAXS
  • automatic dispenser
  • micro drop
  • small-angle X-ray scattering; sample changers; solution scattering; BioSAXS; microdrops.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology

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