Anomalous Scattering in Macromolecular Structure Analysis

  • Wayne A. Hendrickson
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 126)


Anomalous scattering is a phenomenon in fundamental physics that proves to have a special role in macromolecular crystallography. When x-rays impact matter they are scattered from the electrons of atoms. Conventional diffraction analysis takes the scattering as being directly proportional to electron density. Thus this “normal” scattering is insensitive to atom type. However, such a description is only adequate for the lightest of elements (e.g. carbon and nitrogen). In general, resonance between electronic vibrations induced by the incident x-ray wave and the characteristic frequencies of bound atomic electrons modifies the scattering. This change, the “anomalous” scattering, has two especially pertinent features: the magnitude of effect varies with x-ray wavelength and each type of atom gives a distinctive response. Anomalous scattering is particularly pronounced at absorption edges; that is, when the x-ray energy approaches the characteristic energy levels of atomic orbitals.


Phase Determination Anomalous Dispersion Multiple Wavelength Anomalous Scattering Anomalous Center 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wayne A. Hendrickson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiophysicsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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