You'd Never Guess That This Space-Age Gadget Was a Microscope

By Attila Nagy on at

This beautiful piece of shiny scientific instrumentation is a brand new class X-ray microscope sitting inside a vacuum chamber at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Things have certainly changed since we were at school.

More precisely, it's a multi-layer Laue lens module inside the vacuum chamber of the microscope installed at the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline at National Synchrotron Light Source II. And what is it good for? BNL explains:

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright x-rays from the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This groundbreaking instrument, designed to deliver a suite of unprecedented x-ray imaging capabilities for the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline, brings researchers one step closer to the ultimate goal of nanometer resolution at NSLS-II.

The microscope manipulates novel nanofocusing optics called multilayer Laue lenses (MLL) — incredibly precise lenses grown one atomic layer at a time — which produce a tiny x-ray beam that is currently about 10 nanometers in size. Focusing an x-ray beam to that level means being able to see the structures on that length scale, whether they are proteins in a biological sample, or the inner workings of a fuel cell catalyst.

Here is another shot of the device, putting into perspective. On the right is Evgeny Nazaretski, a research physicist at BNL. [BNL]

You'd Never Guess That This Space-Age Gadget Was a Microscope