X-rays have more in common with our eyes than you might think. When X-rays are maneuvered with advanced mirrors and other visual tools, abnormalities can seep in. These issues are akin to vision problems such as astigmatism, coma, and refractive errors. Just like optometrists can prescribe their clients corrective lenses for their vision conditions, a team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has invented a practice called ptchography to evaluate and x-ray beam errors. They published their findings in Nature Communications.
Since x-ray wavelengths are shorter than the visible light detected by the eye, creating mirrors and lenses for the machine is a difficult process. Any kind of error can reduce the quality of the beam. The scientists stacked 20 small beryllium lenses to bend the light so it would create miniscule focal points. This way, it was easy for the researchers to identify the errors in the lenses. They were able to measure the beam’s curve and design corrective glass material to realign the x-rays.
They built the corrective lens from quartz, which decreased the beam’s errors. The researchers were also able to sharpen the beam from a diameter of 1,600 nanometers to 250 nanometers.
“Just like sight is different in every human, the optics are different with every X-ray light source and instrument,” said the study’s lead author Frank Seiboth, a fellow at SLAC’s free-electron X-ray laser, the Lina Coherent Light Source. “Once we measure the problems, then we can make corrective glasses that will make everything sharp again,” he said.