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With the remarkable progress of accelerator-based X-ray sources in terms of intensity and brightness, the investigation of structural dynamics from time-resolved X-ray diffraction methods is becoming widespread in chemistry, biochemistry and materials science applications. Diffraction patterns can now be measured down to the femtosecond time-scale using X-ray free electron lasers or table-top laser plasma X-ray sources. On the other hand, the recent developments in photon counting X-ray area detectors offer new opportunities for time-resolved crystallography. Taking advantage of the fast read-out, the internal stacking of recorded images, and the gating possibilities (electronic shutter) of the XPAD hybrid pixel detector, we implemented a laboratory X-ray diffractometer for time-resolved single-crystal X-ray diffraction after pulsed laser excitation, combined with transient optical absorption measurement. The experimental method and instrumental setup are described in detail, and validated using the photoinduced nitro­syl linkage isomerism of sodium nitro­prusside, Na2[Fe(CN)5NO]·2H2O, as proof of principle. Light-induced Bragg intensity relative variations ΔI(hkl)/I(hkl) of the order of 1%, due to the photoswitching of the NO ligand, could be detected with a 6 ms acquisition window. The capabilities of such a laboratory time-resolved experiment are critically evaluated.

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