Enabling & Support

Novel X-ray imaging optics for improved medical diagnosis, material testing and lithography.

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ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology
499 - Abstract:
A top International Agency offers an innovative optical reflector element for high energy beams such as UV, X-rays and gamma-rays. This invention enables the previously practically infeasible use of X-ray beam shaping optics in everyday applications and fields of expertise other than astronomy. By providing a compact, cost effective and robust modular design it is possible to envision its use for material testing, medical diagnosis and lithography. License agreement collaboration is sought.

Description of the offer:

The proposed invention comprises the theoretical design and the method of fabrication of an optical reflector element for high energy particle beams such as X-rays.

X-rays cannot be manipulated as regular visible light rays with classical optical devices (lenses and mirrors) to focus and form images since, due to their high energy, they are difficult to refract or reflect. This limitation is surpassed by reflecting the rays at grazing incidence, i.e. at very small angles between the ray and the reflective surface.

This novel technology provides a compact optics, which is able to image X-rays, or to collimate them, contrary to prior art devices, which are very bulky and expensive to manufacture, restricting their application to space telescopes from highly funded programmes. The ability to apply optical elements to X-rays could vastly improve the applications of small wavelength radiation technologies, as they provide the ability to focus, collimate or disperse the beam at will. A proper analogy would be the practical value of a photographic plate without a lens, limiting its use to detecting shadows, or with a good lens attached (the optical element), as only the latter can provide crisp, sharp and focused images.

This invention capitalizes on the huge investments made in the semi-conductors industry, by using silicon wafers and semiconductor processes and equipment to produce the novel X-ray optics. Ribbed mirror plates are thus produced, featuring a highly polished mirror surface. These plates are stacked, with the ribs acting as very well defined inter-plate spacings. It is possible to impose a shape to the individual plates, and consequently the whole stack, providing a fine control over the reflective properties of the optics.

The compactness and ease of manufacture of these optical elements turn them into the perfect tool for substantially improving current X-ray technologies, as currently used in medical diagnosis, material testing or lithography. As an example, in the medical field, the focusing of the radiation would allow higher resolution pictures, with improved details, while reducing the radiation dose to which the patient is exposed.

Innovations and advantages

This invention improves on prior art by providing a very compact, robust and modular X-ray optics, which can be adapted to the specific needs of different applications. By utilizing proven semi-conductor technology in its production, this optics can be produced cost effectively.

This novel optical elements combines high performance, compact size and low cost, permitting its use in previously inaccessible applications. Substantial improvement can be obtained in a number of areas, ranging from medical diagnostic over micro-lithography to elemental mapping of biological samples in an atmosphere. New techniques and equipment will be made possible with this new optics.

Domain of Application:

This technology is based in the advances made in high energy beams optics, semiconductors materials and micro engineering, and it can be applied to several technical domains, such as in semiconductor and wafer fabrication, lithography, medical diagnosis equipment, scientific analytical tools and for material testing and validation.

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