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X-ray Optics and Applications

The X-Ray Optics and Applications group of LMN works on various fields of research involving the control of x-rays with ultimate precision. We develop instrumentation for large scale facilities such as synchrotrons and x-ray free electron lasers (X-FELs), by applying nanolithography techniques. This includes x-ray diffractive optics such as Fresnel zone plate lenses for imaging and probing of matter on a micro- and nanometer scale. Our optics are used at many synchrotron beam lines worldwide and hold the resolution record in x-ray microscopy. For applications that do not require ultimate resolution, we pursue novel approaches to obtain very high diffraction efficiencies.

Interferometric imaging techniques using hard x-rays also rely on specialized micro-fabricated gratings. The possibility to use this technique not only with synchrotron radiation but also with incoherent x-rays from tube sources makes the technique interesting for commercial applications. The extreme sensitivity of grating interferometry also provides a powerful tool for x-ray optics metrology and wavefront sensing.

The development of a new generation of x-ray sources based on the x-ray free-electron laser (X-FEL) principle have triggered the development of specialized diffractive optics. In order to withstand the extreme power levels of X-FELs, we make Fresnel zone plates based on diamond substrates. Similar devices are made for applications such as spectral monitoring or beam splitting. The latter is used to build multiple split-and-delay lines for ultra-fast pump-probe experiments with unprecedented timing precision.

For the fabrication of these devices, the X-Ray Optics and Applications Group runs LMN’s high performance electron-beam lithography tool Vistec EBPG 5000PlusES, that is also used by many other internal and external research groups.


For references see: List of Publications


6 December 2018

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Copyright: M. Setzpfandt/HZB

2018 Innovation Award on Synchrotron Radiation

The Innovation Award on Synchrotron Radiation 2018 went to Dr. Christian David, also from the Paul Scherrer Institute, and to Prof. Alexei Erko, who recently moved from the HZB to the Institute for Applied Photonics (IAP) in Berlin-Adlershof.

2 October 2018


Demonstration of femtosecond X-ray pump X-ray probe diffraction on protein crystals

Our experiments, published in the September issue of Structural Dynamics, demonstrate the feasibility of time-resolved pump-multiprobe X-ray diffraction experiments on protein crystals using a split-and-delay setup which was temporarily installed at the LCLS X-ray Free Electron Laser.

7 September 2018

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Diamond: a gem for micro-optics

Our image of a diamond structure was published on the cover page of the September 2018 issue of the journal "Materials Today". The corresponding paper reports on the nano-frabrication of micro-optical elements in diamond.

7 May 2018

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Fresnel Zone Plates with Zone Widths below 10 nm

The spot size of a Fresnel Zone Plate lens is mainly determined by the zone widths of its outermost zone. It is therefore essential to fabricate zone plates with structures as small as possible for high-resolution X-ray microscopy. Researchers at the Laboratory for Micro- and Nanotechnology at the PSI have now developed Fresnel zone plates with zone widths well below 10 nm, down to 6.4 nm. These lenses are capable of pushing resolution in X-ray microscopy to the single-digit regime.

6 April 2018


A first glance at the SwissFEL x-rays wave-front

X-ray Free Electron Lasers (XFELs) combine the properties of synchrotron radiation (short wavelengths) and laser radiation (high lateral coherence, ultrashort pulse durations). These outstanding machines allow to study ultra-fast phenomena at an atomic level with unprecedented temporal resolution for answering the most intriguing open questions in biology, chemistry and physics.

24 November 2017

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Extreme Ultraviolet Vortices at Free Electron Lasers

PSI scientists have developed tailored diffractive X-ray optics for a free electron laser that induces an optical vortex in extreme ultraviolet radiation. The experiment facilitates the first demonstration of orbital angular momentum in radiation created by a free electron laser in the extreme ultraviolet regime, with an extraordinary clean and defined wavefront. In a collaborative effort with researchers from the FERMI free electron laser in Trieste, Italy and from the University of Nova Gorica in Slovenia, the wavefront of the intense beams carrying an orbtial angular momentum was characterized. Furthermore, a method to characterize the footprint of a focused beam from a free electron laser was refined based on ablation imprints in polymers and subsequent treatment with organic solvents. In this way, the sensitivity of the imprint method could be enhanced to a dynamic range of three orders of magnitude in a single shot.

18 August 2017

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A new RIXS analyzer scheme based on transmission zone plates

PSI scientists have developed a new type of X-ray optics that allows for analyzing the emission in resonant inelastic x-ray scattering (RIXS) experiments. The new approach combines the energy dispersion with imaging capabilities. In a collaborative effort with research groups from Göttingen and Hamburg, two new classes of RIXS experiments, energy mapping and RIXS imaging, have been demonstrated.

9 August 2017

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Single-shot Monitoring of Ultrafast Processes via X-ray Streaking at a Free Electron Laser

The advent of x-ray free electron lasers has extended the unique capabilities of resonant x-ray spectroscopy techniques to ultrafast time scales. Here, in collaboration between researchers from PSI, Sorbonne Universités, HASYLAB/DESY, Synchrotron SOLEIL, CNRS, and Uppsala University, we report on a novel experimental method that allows retrieving with a single x-ray pulse the time evolution of an ultrafast process, not only at a few discrete time delays, but continuously over an extended time window.

9 March 2017

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Interlaced zone plates push the resolution limit in x-ray microscopy

A novel type of diffractive lenses based on interlaced structures enable x-ray imaging at resolutions below 10 nm. The fabrication method and the test results of these novel x-ray lenses have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Research Topics

Diffractive X-ray Lenses
    • Electroplated Zone Plates and Beam Shapers
    • Ultra-high Resolution Zone Plates
    • Double-Sided Zone Plates
    • Blazed X-ray Optics
    • Zernike X-ray Phase Contrast Microscopy

Grating-based X-ray Interferometry
    • Differential Phase Contrast and Dark-Field Imaging
    • Metrology Applications at Synchrotrons and XFELs
    • Grating Fabrication

Diamond X-ray Optics for XFEL Experiments
    • Diamond Zone Plates for XFELs
    • Beam Splitter Gratings for Spectral Monitoring
    • Ultra-Fast Pump-Probe Experiments