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X-ray microscope at nano-scale: POLLUX beamline is launched at the Swiss Light Source

With the inauguration of the POLLUX beamline, the Swiss Light Source (SLS) in Villigen, Switzerland gains its tenth experimental station, providing scientists with another tool to access the nanoworld.

An X-ray lens focuses the SLS light beam to 30 nanometres. This allows the measuring of chemical maps on the nanometre scale. Such analyses serve materials science in the study of magnetism in nanostructures, which could ultimately lead to new magnetic storage systems.

Environmental science will also benefit from the POLLUX beamline. For example the study of millions of year-old pollen which holds secrets of the earth’s history and the process of fossilisation. Fine particulate matter or aerosol particles can be made visible and their chemical composition and reactivity can be analysed.

One technical challenge at POLLUX is to focus the 30 nanometre X-ray beam on the sample between the Fresnel zone plates. These X-ray lenses have the diameter of a human hair, (0.15 millimetres) and consist of many hundreds of concentric gold rings created by a nano-lithographic process.

The new beamline is a joint project of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and PSI. The financing of 1.6 Million Euros comes from PSI and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This is the tenth beamline for the five year-old SLS, and ten more beamlines are planned.

Dr. Christoph Quitmann | alfa
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