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October 01, 2007

Progress towards 1 nanometer x-ray resolution

At Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), the scientists exceeded a limit on the ability to focus "hard," or high-energy, x-rays known as the "critical angle."

The researchers implemented their idea by creating a compound lens from a series of four kinoform lenses placed one after the other. Using this setup at NSLS beamline X13B, they showed that the critical angle can be surpassed with hard x-rays, while still focusing like a single lens.

"Without exceeding the critical angle, the refractive lens resolution would be limited to 24 nanometers or more," Ablett said. "Even though in this experiment we just barely exceeded this limit, we've shown that it can be done. This is just the first step."

This is an important step for the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a state-of-the-art synchrotron facility that will produce x-rays up to 10,000 times brighter than those generated by the current NSLS and could lead to advances such as alternative-energy technologies and new drugs for fighting disease. One of the major goals of the facility is to probe materials and molecules with just one-nanometer resolution - a capability needed to study the intricate mechanisms of chemical and biological systems.

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