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Measuring the Time-evolution of Nanoscale Materials with Stopped-flow and Small-angle Neutron Scattering



Elizabeth Kelley, Michael H. Nguyen, Drew Marquardt, Brian B. Maranville, Ryan Murphy


This paper presents the use of a stopped-flow small-angle neutron-scattering (SANS) sample environment to quickly mix liquid samples and study nanoscale kinetic processes on time scales of seconds to minutes. The stopped-flow sample environment uses commercially available syringe pumps to mix the desired volumes of liquid samples that are then injected through a dynamic mixer into a quartz glass cell in approximately 1 s. Time-resolved SANS data acquisition is synced with the sample mixing to follow the evolution of the nanostructure in solution after mixing. To make the most efficient use of neutron beam time, we use a series of flow selector valves to automatically load, rinse, and dry the cell between measurements, allowing for repeated data collection throughout multiple sample injections. Sample injections are repeated until sufficient neutron scattering statistics are collected. The mixing setup can be programmed to systematically vary conditions to measure the kinetics at different mixing ratios, sample concentrations, additive concentrations, and temperatures. The minimum sample volume required per injection is approximately 150 µL depending on the path length of the quartz cell. Representative results using this stopped-flow sample environment are presented for rapid lipid exchange kinetics in the presence of an additive, cyclodextrin. The vesicles exchange outer-leaflet (exterior) lipids on the order of seconds and fully exchange both interior and exterior lipids within hours. Measuring lipid exchange kinetics requires in situ mixing to capture the faster (seconds) and slower (minutes) processes and extract the kinetic rate constants. The same sample environment can also be used to probe molecular exchange in other types of liquid samples such as lipid nanoparticles, proteins, surfactants, polymers, emulsions, or inorganic nanoparticles. Measuring the nanoscale structural transformations and kinetics of exchanging or reacting systems will provide new insights into processes that evolve at the nanoscale.
Journal of Visualized Experiments


small angle neutron scattering (SANS), time resolved scattering, stopped-flow mixing, molecular exchange kinetics, lipid nanoparticales


Kelley, E. , Nguyen, M. , Marquardt, D. , Maranville, B. and Murphy, R. (2021), Measuring the Time-evolution of Nanoscale Materials with Stopped-flow and Small-angle Neutron Scattering, Journal of Visualized Experiments, [online],, (Accessed April 17, 2024)
Created August 6, 2021, Updated March 26, 2024