Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists develop spectacles for X-ray lasers


Tailor-made corrective glasses permit unparalleled concentration of X-ray beam

An international team of scientists has tailored special X-ray glasses to concentrate the beam of an X-ray laser stronger than ever before. The individually produced corrective lens eliminates the inevitable defects of an X-ray optics stack almost completely and concentrates three quarters of the X-ray beam to a spot with 250 nanometres (millionths of a millimetre) diameter, closely approaching the theoretical limit. The concentrated X-ray beam can not only improve the quality of certain measurements, but also opens up entirely new research avenues, as the team surrounding DESY lead scientist Christian Schroer writes in the journal Nature Communications.

This this the X-ray spectacles under an electron microscope.

Credit: DESY NanoLab

This is a profile of the focused X-ray beam, without (top) and with (bottom) the corrective lens.

Credit: Frank Seiboth, DESY

Although X-rays obey the same optical laws as visible light, they are difficult to focus or deflect: "Only a few materials are available for making suitable X-ray lenses and mirrors," explains co-author Andreas Schropp from DESY. "Also, since the wavelength of X-rays is very much smaller than that of visible light, manufacturing X-ray lenses of this type calls for a far higher degree of precision than is required in the realm of optical wavelengths -- even the slightest defect in the shape of the lens can have a detrimental effect."

The production of suitable lenses and mirrors has already reached a very high level of precision, but the standard lenses, made of the element beryllium, are usually slightly too strongly curved near the centre, as Schropp notes. "Beryllium lenses are compression-moulded using precision dies. Shape errors of the order of a few hundred nanometres are practically inevitable in the process." This results in more light scattered out of the focus than unavoidable due to the laws of physics. What's more, this light is distributed quite evenly over a rather large area.

Such defects are irrelevant in many applications. "However, if you want to heat up small samples using the X-ray laser, you want the radiation to be focussed on an area as small as possible," says Schropp. "The same is true in certain imaging techniques, where you want to obtain an image of tiny samples with as much details as possible."

In order to optimise the focussing, the scientists first meticulously measured the defects in their portable beryllium X-ray lens stack. They then used these data to machine a customised corrective lens out of quartz glass, using a precision laser at the University of Jena. The scientists then tested the effect of these glasses using the LCLS X-ray laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the U.S.

"Without the corrective glasses, our lens focused about 75 per cent of the X-ray light onto an area with a diameter of about 1600 nanometres. That is about ten times as large as theoretically achievable," reports principal author Frank Seiboth from the Technical University of Dresden, who now works at DESY. "When the glasses were used, 75 per cent of the X-rays could be focused into an area of about 250 nanometres in diameter, bringing it close to the theoretical optimum." With the corrective lens, about three times as much X-ray light was focused into the central speckle than without it. In contrast, the full width at half maximum (FWHM), the generic scientific measure of focus sharpness in optics, did not change much and remained at about 150 nanometres, with or without the glasses.

The same combination of mobile standard optics and tailor-made glasses has also been studied by the team at DESY's synchrotron X-ray source PETRA III and the British Diamond Light Source. In both cases, the corrective lens led to a comparable improvement to that seen at the X-ray laser. "In principle, our method allows an individual corrective lens to be made for every X-ray optics," explains lead scientist Schroer, who is also a professor of physics at the University of Hamburg.

"These so-called phase plates can not only benefit existing X-ray sources, but in particular they could become a key component of next-generation X-ray lasers and synchrotron light sources," emphasises Schroer. "Focusing X-rays to the theoretical limits is not only a prerequisite for a substantial improvement in a range of different experimental techniques; it can also pave the way for completely new methods of investigation. Examples include the non-linear scattering of particles of light by particles of matter, or creating particles of matter from the interaction of two particles of light. For these methods, the X-rays need to be concentrated in a tiny space which means efficient focusing is essential."


Involved in this research project were the Technical University of Dresden, the Universities of Jena and Hamburg, the Royal Technical University of Stockholm (KTH), Diamond Light Source, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and DESY.

Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY is the leading German accelerator centre and one of the leading in the world. DESY is a member of the Helmholtz Association and receives its funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (90 per cent) and the German federal states of Hamburg and Brandenburg (10 per cent). At its locations in Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin, DESY develops, builds and operates large particle accelerators, and uses them to investigate the structure of matter. DESY's combination of photon science and particle physics is unique in Europe.


Perfect X-ray focusing via fitting corrective glasses to aberrated optics; Frank Seiboth et al.; Nature Communications, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14623

Media Contact

Thomas Zoufal


Thomas Zoufal | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: DESY Elektronen-Synchrotron X-ray X-ray lasers diameter nanometres

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions
19.03.2018 | Vienna University of Technology

nachricht 'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

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: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>