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New X-ray lens opens window to nanoworld

Scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have developed a revolutionary achromatic X-ray lens that can capture images down to the level of nanoparticles. Previously, X-ray microscopy was possible only in the monochromatic spectrum, but scientists managed to place an additional refractive lens in front of the main diffractive lens in a special way, which made it possible to focus X-rays at one point despite their different wavelengths.

“For many years, PSI has been the world leader in the production of X-ray lenses. We supply specialized lenses, known as Fresnel zone plates, for X-ray microscopy with synchrotron light sources around the world,” says physicist Christian David, Head of the X-ray Optics and Applications Research Group at the PSI X-ray Nanoscience and Technology Laboratory.

The new lens will be useful in industries specializing in microchips, batteries and materials science. David’s research team is using popular nanolithography techniques to produce diffractive lenses. However, for the second element of the achromatic lens, the refractive structure, they needed an ingenious approach that has only recently become available: micrometer-scale 3D printing. Ultimately, this allowed Adam Kubek (lead author of the study at XRnanotech) to create a shape that vaguely resembles a miniature rocket.

Achromatic lens from PSI

Together with XRnanotech, PSI plans to sell a new lens. Kubeck says they already have the right contacts with companies that specialize in building lab-scale X-ray microscopy equipment.

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