An interdisciplinary group of Canadian, Australian, and American scientists has developed a lenseless X-ray imaging technique that can provide high resolution imaging of components below the surface of the object being observed. Now don’t get too excited, our lab tech friends, since the technique requires tremendous X-ray energies and very powerful computers – features apparently only available in the US at the Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS).
The key is the high intensity X-ray beams created at the APS at Argonne. An intense, coherent X-ray beam collides with the sample, creating a diffraction pattern which is recorded by a charge coupled device (CCD) camera. The X-ray energy is tuned to an atomic resonance of a target element in the sample. Using sophisticated phase-recovery algorithms, a computer reconstructs an image of the specimen that highlights the presence of the element. The result is an image of the internal architecture of the sample at nanometer resolution and without destructive slicing. By using X-ray energies that coincide with an atomic absorption edge, the imaging process can distinguish between different elements in the sample.
If the nucleus or other parts of a cell are labeled with protein specific tags, it can be imaged within whole cells at a resolution far greater than that of ordinary microscopes.
Another application of this new method of imaging includes the burgeoning field of nanoengineering, which endeavors to develop more efficient catalysts for the petrochemical and energy industries and materials with electrically programmable mechanical, thermal and other properties.