NFFA Europe (NFFA stands for “Nanoscience Foundries and Fine Analysis”) will in future more closely link the leading European facilities for research into nanomaterials with the various groups studying nanoscale phenomena and nanotechnology. The European Union recently gave the go-ahead for this ten-million-euro project, which involves a further 19 partners from ten European countries in addition to Desy. The aim is to promote multidisciplinary research on a nanoscale, from synthesising nanomaterials, through nanocharacterisation, to developing the underlying theory and performing numerical simulations using high-performance computers. This will for example allow more industrial products to be brought to the market.
Booming Technology of the Future
Nanotechnology is a booming area of modern research. What makes it so remarkable is that the properties of materials change dramatically once their size in at least one dimension is reduced to 10 nanometres (10 billionths of a metre). Nanomaterials of this kind are already put to a wide variety of uses, including semiconductor nanostructures, heterogeneous catalysts, sun cream, self-cleaning surfaces, scratch-proof car paint, or engine-friendly lubricants. Promising future applications range from nanowires for new data storage devices through to nanorobots that can transport drugs to specific cancer cells in the body. However, in order to produce and deploy such materials industrially, it is important to ensure the quality and reproducibility of the functional materials.
Within the new infrastructure of NFFA Europe, DESY’s NanoLab offers European users the synthesis, chemical and structural analysis as well as the structuring of nanomaterials, concentrating particularly on the combination of nanomicroscopy with electron and synchrotron radiation. As of spring 2016, dedicated beamlines at DESY’s high-brilliance synchrotron radiation source PETRA III, which were funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research to encourage collaborative research, will be used for selected experiments.
Desy Researcher Invents Novel X-Ray Lens for Sharper Views into the Nano World
A team led by Dr. Saša Bajt has designed, fabricated and successfully tested a novel X-ray lens that produces sharper and brighter images of the nano world. The lens employs an innovative concept to redirect X-rays over a wide range of angles, making a high convergence power. The larger the convergence the smaller the details a microscope can resolve, but as is well known it is difficult to bend X-rays by large enough angles. By fabricating a nano-structure that acts like an artificial crystal it was possible to mimic a high refracting power. Although the fabrication needed to be controlled at the atomic level — which is comparable to the wavelength of X-rays — the DESY scientists achieved this precision over an unprecedented area, making for a large working-distance lens and bright images. Together with the improved resolution these are key ingredients to make a super X-ray microscope.
The team tested their novel lens at DESY’s ultra brilliant X-ray source PETRA III. The test at the experimental station P11 showed that the lens produced a focus just 8 nm wide, which is close to the design value of 6 nm. The tests also showed that the intensity profile across the lens is very uniform, a prerequisite for high quality images. The lens design allows to transmit up to 60 per cent of the incoming X-rays to the sample.
Inaccessible Details will no be Made Visible
The scientists focussed the X-ray beam in just one direction, resulting in a thin line. Focussing in two dimensions to obtain a small spot can be done by simply using two lenses in line, one focusing horizontally and the other vertically. “Our results prove out our fabrication technique to achieve lenses of high focussing power. We believe we have the requisite control to achieve even higher power lenses,” elaborates Bajt. “It appears that the long-sought goal of focusing X-rays to a nanometre is in reach.” This will put X-ray imaging on par with the quality achieved with scanning electron microscopes, that typically have a resolution of 4 nm. The advantage is that X-ray imaging is not limited to viewing surfaces or extremely thin samples only, but can penetrate a sample. “Our novel lens concept will help scientists to peer deeper into the nanocosm and make previously inaccessible details visible,” says Bajt.
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Reference: High numerical aperture multilayer Laue lenses; Andrew J. Morgan, Mauro Prasciolu, Andrzej Andrejczuk, Jacek Krzywinski, Alke Meents, David Pennicard, Heinz Graafsma, Anton Barty, Richard J. Bean, Miriam Barthelmess, Dominik Oberthuer, Oleksandr Yefanov, Andrew Aquila, Henry N. Chapman, and Saša Bajt; „Scientific Reports“, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/srep09892