DESY light source PETRA III now has world's sharpest X-ray eyes

July 27, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A novel X-ray microscope at DESY offers the world's sharpest X-ray vision: Thanks to the extraordinary brilliance of DESY's X-ray source PETRA III, this microscope is able to  resolve details as small as ten nanometres – which is about ten thousand times thinner than a human hair. Only few facilities worldwide are able to reach a comparable optical resolution.

The instrument was jointly developed by a team led by Professor Christian Schroer from the Technical University of Dresden and DESY researchers at the experiment station P06 and partly funded  by the German Federal Ministry of Research. It is already available to users, and possible applications include, for example, imaging the structure of microchips, investigating carbon nanotubes and studying the chemistry of catalyst nanoparticles. Schroer's group describes the technique in the scientific journal Applied Physics Letters.

The scanning X-ray microscope employs a technique known as ptychography. Instead of directly imaging the probe, ptychography combines many diffraction patterns generated when a fine X-ray beam scans the probe. "This way ptychography can overcome the limitations of conventional microscopy regarding the spatial resolution", explains Schroer.

The more details on the fringes of the individual diffraction patterns can be recorded, the higher the resulting resolution. Thanks to the extreme brightness of PETRA III the diffraction patterns are exceptionally detailed, resulting in a spatial resolution of ten nanometres, which is at least twice as good as in conventional microscopy.

"This is a prime example for the use of a high brilliance source", underlines Schroer. His group demonstrated the capabilities of the new scanning X-ray microscope by imaging a Siemensstern, a star-like pattern with alternating white and black rays, made of the metal tantalum. The technique is suited for a wide range of applications in the nano cosmos as well as in geo-  and environmental sciences, and biomedicine.

As the resolution of the microscope is in principle only limited by the X-ray density on the sample, an even sharper X-ray vision may become  possible in the future. By optimising the focussing X-ray optics a resolution of at least one nanometre should be achievable.

Explore further: Microsoft research shows augmented projectors (w/ video)

More information: "Hard x-ray scanning microscopy with coherent radiation: Beyond the resolution of conventional x-ray microscopes", A. Schropp et al., Appl. Phys. Lett. 100, 253112 (2012), DOI: 10.1063/1.4729942

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Short wavelength plasmons observed in nanotubes

July 28, 2015

The term "plasmons" might sound like something from the soon-to-be-released new Star Wars movie, but the effects of plasmons have been known about for centuries. Plasmons are collective oscillations of conduction electrons ...

'Expansion entropy': A new litmus test for chaos?

July 28, 2015

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? This intriguing hypothetical scenario, commonly called "the butterfly effect," has come to embody the popular conception of a chaotic system, in which ...

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2012
Yup, them're some purty sharp images...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.