Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pushing X-Rays to the Edge to Draw the Nanoworld Into Focus

13.03.2013
Photographers rely on precision lenses to generate well-focused and crystal-clear images. These high-quality optics—readily available and produced in huge quantities—are often taken for granted. But as scientists explore the details of materials spanning just billionths of a meter, engineering the nanoscale equivalent of a camera lens becomes notoriously difficult.

Instead of working with polished glass, physicists must use ingenious tricks, including shooting concentrated beams of x-rays directly into materials. These samples then act as light-bending lenses, and the x-ray deflections can be used to deduce the material's nanostructures.


Brookhaven National Laboratory

This rendering shows the high-intensity x-ray beam striking and then traveling through the gray sample material. In this new technique, the x-ray scattering—the blue and white ripples—is considerably less distorted than in other methods, producing superior images with less complex analysis.

Unfortunately, the multilayered internal structures of real materials bend light in extremely complex and unexpected ways. When scientists grapple with this kind of warped imagery, they use elaborate computer calculations to correct for the optical obstacles found on the nanoscale and create detailed visual models.

Now, owing to a happy accident and subsequent insight, researchers at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a new and strikingly simple x-ray scattering technique—detailed in the February issue of the Journal of Applied Crystallography—to help draw nanomaterials ranging from catalysts to proteins into greater focus.

"During an experiment, we noticed that one of the samples was misaligned," said physicist Kevin Yager, a coauthor on the new study. "Our x-ray beam was hitting the edge, not the center as is typically desired. But when we saw how clean and undistorted the data was, we immediately realized that this could be a huge advantage in measuring nanostructures."

This serendipitous discovery at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) led to the development of a breakthrough imaging technique called Grazing-Transmission Small Angle X-ray Scattering (GTSAXS). The new method requires considerably less correction and a much simpler analysis, resulting in superior images with profound implications for future advances in materials science.

"Conventional scattering produces images that are 'distorted'—the data you want is there, but it's stretched, compressed, and multiply scattered in complicated ways as the x-rays enter and exit the sample," said physicist and coauthor Ben Ocko. "Our insight was that undistorted scattering rays were emitted inside the sample—but they usually get absorbed as they travel through the substrate. By moving the sample and beam near the edge of the substrate, we allow this undistorted scattering to escape and reach the detector."

The Brookhaven Lab collaboration was not the first group to encounter the diffraction that occurs along a material's edge, but it was the first to reconsider and harness the unexpected error.

"Until now, no one bothered to dig into the details, and figure out how to use it as a measurement technique, rather than as a misalignment to be corrected," added Xinhui Lu, the lead author of the study.

GTSAXS, like other scattering techniques, offers a complement to other imaging processes because it can measure the average structure throughout a sample, rather than just pinpointing selected areas. Scattering also offers an ideal method for the real-time studies of nanoscale changes and reactions such as the propagation of water through soft nanomaterials.

"This technique is broadly applicable to any nanostructure sitting on a flat substrate," said study coauthor Chuck Black. "Lithographic patterns, catalytic nanoparticles, self-assembled polymers, etc.—they can all be studied. This technique should be particularly powerful for very thin films with complicated three-dimensional structures, which to date have been difficult to study."

Brookhaven's NSLS supplies the intense x-ray beams essential to this technique, which requires extremely short wavelengths to interact with nanoscale materials. At NSLS, accelerated electrons emit these high-energy photons, which are then channeled down a beamline and focused to precisely strike the target material. When the next generation light source, NSLS-II, opens in 2014, GTSAXS will offer even greater experimental potential.

"We look forward to implementing this technique at NSLS-II," Yager said, with Ocko adding: "The excellent beam focusing should enable us to probe the near-edge region more effectively, making GTSAXS even more robust."

The research was funded by the DOE's Office of Science and conducted at both NSLS and Brookhaven Lab's Center for Functional Nanomaterials — the Office of Science supports both of these leading facilities.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

Justin Eure | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.science.energy.gov

Further reports about: GTSAXS NSLS X-rays nanoworld three-dimensional structure

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?
23.06.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>