Recording a ‘molecular movie’ with atomic spatial resolution on the femtosecond timescale set by atomic motion can be considered the ultimate goal of dynamic real-space imaging. Free-electron X-ray lasers, with their (sub)nanometre wavelength, femtosecond pulse duration and high brilliance, fuel the hope that this may ultimately become possible. Single-shot still pictures with sub-100 nm resolution achieved during femtosecond exposures have recently been demonstrated1,2,3. A femtosecond time-lapse movie requires a sequence of independent images taken with a controllable time delay. As a key step towards achieving a molecular movie, we demonstrate a holographic imaging approach capable of recording two fully independent images with a variable time delay over the entire femtosecond regime. The concept overcomes the fundamental readout time limitations of two-dimensional area detectors, as two subsequent X-ray holograms of a sample can be superimposed within one detector exposure and yet be unambiguously disentangled to reconstruct two independent images.
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The authors thank the FLASH machine and experiments team for their great support. The assistance of the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (grants 05 KS4PMC/8 and 05 KS7PM1) within the priority research area FSP 301–FLASH is acknowledged.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Günther, C., Pfau, B., Mitzner, R. et al. Sequential femtosecond X-ray imaging. Nature Photon 5, 99–102 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphoton.2010.287
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