New X-ray Lens Gives Incredible View of Nanoworld

New X-ray Lens Gives Incredible View of Nanoworld 

This article explains how New X-ray Lens Gives Incredible View of Nanoworld.

The Paul Scherrer Institute has developed an innovative X-ray lens. This concentrates X-ray photons of varied wavelengths. The new lens will make X-ray nanostructure analysis easier, the researchers write in Nature Communications. 

Photographic and optical microscope lenses must be achromat. They ensure that light of varying wavelengths is focused. The lack of achromatic X-ray lenses limited high-resolution X-ray microscopy to monochromatic X-rays. Actually, all other wavelengths must be filtered out of the X-ray beam spectrum, making picture capture ineffective. 

PSI researchers have constructed an achromatic X-ray lens. The new X-ray lens will aid researchers in disciplines including microchips, batteries, and materials science. 

More than meets the eye 

Achromatic lenses for visible light have been around for over 200 years. They are usually two-part. Like a glass prism, light travels through the first substance and splits into spectrum hues. It reverses the effect with another substance. Dispersion is the separation of wavelengths in physics. 

In the X-ray range, “this basic method does not work,” says physicist Christian David of PSI’s Laboratory for X-ray Nanoscience and Technologies. For X-rays, no two materials have enough differing optical properties across a wide range of wavelengths to offset each other. In other words, material X-ray dispersion is too similar. 

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Instead of two materials, the researchers coupled two optical principles. Our diffractive lens needed a refractive lens in front of it, says lead author Adam Kubec. The X-ray optics-focused XRnanotech (a PSI spin-off) replaces Christian David’s group. 

“PSI has long been a world leader in X-ray lens production,” David explains. Micrometer-scale 3D printing was necessary for the achromatic lens’ refractive construction. This allowed Kubec to develop a miniature rocket-like structure. 

Uses in business 

The new lens enables the transfer from research to industrial X-ray microscopy. According to Kubec, synchrotron X-rays are so intense that all but one wavelength may be filtered out while still creating an image. Then there are synchrotrons. Currently, industry R&D personnel at synchrotrons like PSI’s Swiss Light Source SLS are allotted a certain beam time. This beam time is limited and expensive. “Industry wants speedier R&D reaction loops,” Kubec says. It will allow industrial enterprises to run their own miniature X-ray microscopes. 

It will be sold alongside XRnanotech. It has connections with manufacturers of lab-scale X-ray microscopy equipment, says Kubec. 

SLS X-ray beam test 

It was characterized using SLS’s X-ray beamline. Ptychography is an advanced X-ray microscopy method. The study’s co-author is Marie-Christine Zdora, an X-ray imaging expert in Christian David’s research group. Ptychography helped us characterize our achromatic lens. This allowed them to find the X-ray focus point at different wavelengths. 

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A raster test was used to check the new lens’ focus. Changing the X-ray beam’s wavelength blurs the images. The new achromatic lens changes that. When we got a sharp image of the test material throughout a wide range of wavelengths, we realized our lens was operating. 

The PSI-developed achromatic X-ray lens will shortly be marketed by XRnanotech.

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