• small angle scattering;
  • Debye sums;
  • fast multipole method;
  • harmonic expansion;
  • profile computation;
  • Helmholtz equation;
  • linear cost;
  • SAXS;
  • SANS;
  • WAXS


Debye summation, which involves the summation of sinc functions of distances between all pair of atoms in three-dimensional space, arises in computations performed in crystallography, small/wide angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS), and small angle neutron scattering (SANS). Direct evaluation of Debye summation has quadratic complexity, which results in computational bottleneck when determining crystal properties, or running structure refinement protocols that involve SAXS or SANS, even for moderately sized molecules. We present a fast approximation algorithm that efficiently computes the summation to any prescribed accuracy ϵ in linear time. The algorithm is similar to the fast multipole method (FMM), and is based on a hierarchical spatial decomposition of the molecule coupled with local harmonic expansions and translation of these expansions. An even more efficient implementation is possible when the scattering profile is all that is required, as in small angle scattering reconstruction (SAS) of macromolecules. We examine the relationship of the proposed algorithm to existing approximate methods for profile computations, and show that these methods may result in inaccurate profile computations, unless an error-bound derived in this article is used. Our theoretical and computational results show orders of magnitude improvement in computation complexity over existing methods, while maintaining prescribed accuracy. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.