Argonne National Laboratory Center for Nanoscale Materials U.S. Department of Energy

X-Ray Lens Aids Nanomaterials Research

Mark Holt (Argonne Center for Nanoscale Materials) examines a sample in the Hard X-Ray Nanoprobe

CNM X-Ray Microscopy Group member Martin Holt examines a sample mounted into the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline at Sector 26 of the APS

A team of researchers at Argonne, including members of the Center for Nanoscale Materials' (CNM's) X-Ray Microscopy Group, has developed the new "multilayer Laue lens." This lens focuses high-energy X-rays so tightly they can detect objects as small as 15 nanometers in size and is in principle capable of focusing to well below 10 nanometers. This approach doubles the resolution over existing lenses, and future advancements could increase resolution by 10 times.

Understanding, imaging, and manipulating the physical world at the nanoscale is critical to designing materials, devices, and technologies that affect our daily lives. To aid in this effort, Argonne's Advanced Photon Source (APS) and CNM partnered to improve lens capabilities. "With this lens, you will be able to see individual nanoparticles," said Argonne physicist Jorg Maser, who conducts research at the APS and CNM.

The team designed the new lens to improve the focusing of hard X-rays. The lens is crafted by depositing thousands of alternating layers of silicon and tungsten silicide one by one, which are then polished down to just 10 microns thick.

The Argonne team began work on the lens in 2003, working out the complex calculations to predict how - and whether - it would work. Then they needed to demonstrate the idea, perfect a prototype and test the lens. A set of the lenses is now in use at the APS and the CNM, and more are being fabricated. Brookhaven National Laboratory's X-ray synchrotron has begun a strong research effort in fabricating advanced multilayer Laue lenses, Maser said, and groups in Japan and Europe have begun to develop similar systems.

In the near future, the team is expecting to incorporate the new lenses into microelectromechanical systems (MEMS): mechanical structures with micrometer-size movable parts. MEMS can be used to precisely position and control these new lenses. Particularly attractive is the possibility of automatically focusing the lenses during experiments, and the ability to scan the X-rays very quickly across samples. This research takes place collaboratively between the APS and the CNM

In the News

August 2011

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