It is difficult to imagine modern science without sophisticated research and international cooperation. The Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University researchers enjoy both since the University provides state-of the-art facilities and instrumentation for research in a variety of fields including X-ray optics.
Anatoly Snigirev is the head of the laboratory of X-ray optics. The laboratory collaborates with leading X-ray optics centers in Russia, as well as with the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF, Grenoble, France) and the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY, Hamburg, Germany).
The synchrotron is a particle accelerator. In the wake of X-ray optics such facilities were needed for high-energy physics and for the study of the interaction of particles. Later it turned out that a change in the trajectory of electrons could generate high intensity X-rays. As a result, today it is the powerful X-ray radiation which is the main value of synchrotrons. It enables researchers to study the structure of materials, biological objects (for example, cells or molecules, proteins) properties of optical systems, etc. X-ray radiation helps explore the structure of any objects without destroying them. The only problem is to manage this radiation. This requires the optics which can maintain the X-ray radiation, collimate and focus it.
Approximately 20 years ago, refraction optics principles were used for focusing energy and transmitting images. The first lenses were made of aluminum, and later of beryllium. Beryllium (also aluminum) optics is most often used now. But the problem is that the size of objects, which are studied, is that of the nanoscale. That is why, extremely high-focus high-resolution optics is required. Beryllium is no longer suitable because it has a grainy and porous structure, so X-rays passing through a beryllium lens, disperse, and the final image of the object shows artefacts. Thus, fundamentally new optics is urgently needed. Stealth-lenses, invisible to X-rays, are to be created. It is what our laboratory is currently working on. To this end, new materials, diamonds and polymers, are proposed.
We need lenses that can make an x-ray beam high-focused. To achieve it, silicon lenses are installed in front of the object placed in a nano-beam scanner. In fact, such lenses are used for compact microscopes in the X-ray range. It is important that such lenses must be X-ray homogeneous, i.e. they do not produce any ‘noise’ on the image of the studied object. Such materials can be created by using additive 3D-printing technology equipment. The Department of Quantum Electronics, headed by Professor Andrei Fedyanin together with colleagues from Moscow State University has already started developing such lenses. Such collaboration is a result of the successful implementation of the 5 top 100 Project when a PhD student from MSU Alexander Petrov, having got acquainted with the work of graduate students from the IKBFU X-ray Optics Laboratory, came up with a proposal to use laser 3D micro-printing for X-ray micro-lenses. The search for the invisible X-ray amorphous materials is one of the main tasks for IKBFU researchers. Additive technologies are technologies of the present.
Leading synchrotrons of the world face the urgency to get upgraded, they need to go from the 3rd to 4th generation accelerators. So the laboratory’s research is extremely relevant. ESRF in France, PETRA in Germany, APS in United States and SPRING-8 in Japan will have to be upgraded in the coming 2-3 years. 4-th generation synchrotron is to be built in Russia in the near future. So, Russia has a chance to become not only a supplier of the most important synchrotron elements to leading research centers in the world, but also quickly take a leading position in the use of synchrotron X-ray microscopy for research.