Researchers at UC San Diego developed a new microscope which combines X-rays and a special algorithm to see details at the nanoscale. They published their results last week in an early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The newly developed algorithm has similarities with the computer program that sharpened the Hubble Space Telescope’s initially blurred images. It converts the diffraction patterns produced by X-rays into visible images. This means the new microscope does not need a lens for visualization, as it captures X-rays to see how materials behave at nanoscale.
Oleg Shpyrko, an assistant professor of physics at UCSD, developed the Algorithm together with Ashish Tripathi, a graduate student. They are cited in the press release:
“The mathematics behind this is somewhat complicated, but what we did is to show that for the first time that we can image magnetic domains with nanometer precision. In other words, we can see magnetic structure at the nanoscale level without using any lenses. To advance nanoscience and nanotechnology, we have to be able to understand how materials behave at the nanoscale. We want to be able to make materials in a controlled fashion, to be able to manipulate matter at nanoscale. And in order to do that we have to be able to see at nanoscale. This technique allows you to
do that. It allows you to look into materials with X-rays and see details at the nanoscale.”
One of its future applications will be storage of more data on smaller memory chips, but it also makes it possible to image magnetic fields and surfaces while manipulating and working at nanoscale. This would help the field to develop more powerful applications in nanotechnology.