Oct 15, 2018 | By Grijs

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have used 3D printing to manufacture X-ray lenses from polymeric materials with nanometer-sized features and excellent focusing capabilities. The new technique allows them to manufacture each single lens under a minute with extremely favorable X-ray optical properties, reducing the costs of prototyping and manufacturing. The scientists have filed a patent for their invention.

Overview of the fabrication method. The micrographs are imaged by a scanning electron microscope.

X-ray microscopes are imaging tools that uniquely combine nanometer size resolution with a large penetration depth. X-ray microscopy or XRM is the only technique where one can study buried features at high resolution, for example, it allows you to see the defects inside a computer´s central processing unit without destroying it, make micro machinery visible under working conditions, and study organelles in a cell in a natural environment.

However, focusing of X-rays requires optics with extremely challenging nanoscale geometries. Owing to their complex nanofabrication method, a single lens can cost up to several tens of thousands of Euros.

The Modern Magnetic Systems and Physical Intelligence departments at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have teamed up to find a new and less-expensive method for making 3D Kinoforms, converging lenses that are able to efficiently focus X-rays. Kinoforms is manufactured in nonideal approximated patterns and requires complicated multistep fabrication processes. This is where 3D printing comes into play. They have found that femtosecond two-photon 3D nanoprinting is the best method to fabricate this diffractive X-ray optic.

"We used a femtosecond pulsed infrared (IR) laser, and a photoresist that can polymerize by absorbing multiple infrared photons simultaneously to write structures smaller than the wavelength of light", explains Umut T. Sanli, a Ph.D. student in the Micro/Nano Optics group of the Modern Magnetic Systems Department. "This way, we achieved an extremely challenging X-ray lens geometry with nanometer-size features and very high focusing efficiencies," he continues. Initial result shows that the 3D‐printed kinoforms using direct soft X‐ray imaging and ptychography demonstrates superior performance with an efficiency reaching up to 20%.

The X-ray optics of XRMs usually need to be replaced almost every year due to radiation damage. Therefore it is important to find a high-throughput and high-yield manufacturing processes to make X-ray lenses.

“Selecting the right materials is a crucial part of the manufacturing process,” explains Dr. Kahraman Keskinbora, who leads the Micro/Nano Group. He and his team chose two-photon polymerization (2PP) polymers to fabricate X-ray lenses.

“We realized that the 2PP-polymers come with extremely favorable X-ray optical properties that could only be matched by Beryllium – a highly toxic element – and Diamond, which is very expensive.” Also, Beryllium and Diamond are both very difficult to shape into the required 3D profiles at the nanoscales. “With the new invention, the 3D printing of a lens takes less than a minute and therefore, the costs of prototyping and manufacturing of X-ray lenses are strongly reduced. Additionally, the polymer lenses are safe to manufacture and once optimized, the fabrication is straightforward,” underlines Dr. Hakan Ceylan, a postdoctoral researcher in the Physical Intelligence Department, which is led by Metin Sitti.

Application of 3D nanoprinting for new and advanced concepts and new type of X-ray optics.

“We went one step forward by combining several of the lenses in series. By integrating various optics, we can effectively control and manipulate the X-ray wavefront. With several lenses and other wavefront shaping elements positioned one after the other, we can optimize these integrated X-ray optics for even the very hard X-ray energy range,” Keskinbora says. “So, there are a lot of new research venues to follow.”

The researchers have filed a patent application for their invention with the help of Max-Planck- Innovation.

The full scientific paper can be found here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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