New technique breaks nanometer barrier in x-ray microscopy
(NC&T/ANL) This novel technique will lead to a better understanding of interfacial reactions at surfaces, such as ion adsorption, corrosion, and catalytic reactions. In particular, this method extends the capability of X-ray microscopy to observe sub-nanometer-sized interfacial features directly and in real time. This non-invasive approach complements the more widely used scanning probe microscopies and can image the topography of a solid surface without using probe-tips near the surface.
Argonne researchers together with Xradia, a firm specializing in X-ray optics and X-ray microscope systems, have achieved sensitivity to sub-nanometer-sized features by using a phenomenon known as phase contrast. This breakthrough makes it possible to look directly at individual steps on a solid surface, borrowing a technique used previously in electron microscopy,
"The ability to see individual nanometer-scale features is an important benchmark for X-ray microscopy" said Argonne physicist Paul Fenter. "Understanding interfacial reactivity is vital to many areas of science and technology, from the corrosion of metals to the transport of contaminants in the environment."
"This technique opens up the possibility of watching these processes directly and will provide fundamentally new opportunities for understanding them," added Steve Wang of Xradia.
|An X-ray reflection interface microscope (XRIM) image of an orthoclase (001) surface. The black arrow indicates a mono-monecular step 0.65 nm in height. (Photo: ANL)|
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