Smart X-ray Optics

The Smart X-ray Optics (SXO) consortium consists of 7 UK institutions investigating the next generation of X-ray optics. It's funded by an EPSRC basic technology grant and is currently in its 3rd year. The aim of the consortium is to design and develop X-ray focussing technology for both small and large scales. Both applications involve the inclusion of Piezo-electric devices which allow active manipulation of the device’s surface. adaptive_mirror.jpg

Adaptive or active optics have been used for many years in both optical astronomy and in synchrotron light sources. In optical astronomy, the distortion to images due to the Earth’s atmosphere is removed by hundreds of actuators on the reverse side of the mirror. In synchrotron’s, the source is focused to nanometre scales by carefully applying a curve to the mirror’s surface. This curve is applied using a series of actuators along the back of the optic.

The small scale application is geared towards creating an optic which can focus high energy X-rays to the spot size of a single biological cell for radiation studies. It is hoped that the new optic, a micro optical array (MOA),


will allow individual cells to be irradiated and the effect on surrounding cells studied. Current technology only allows large groups of cells to be irradiated and only cell death not mutation can be studied. This will increase our understanding of radiation induced cancers and hopefully lead to better treatments. 

The large scale application is aimed towards the next generation of large scale X-ray telescopes. Current technology allows us to see further back in time at higher resolutions to increase our understanding of the Universe. In order to increase the size of the telescopes but still be able to launch it, light weight optics are being designed. These thin, light optics are very easily deformed on Earth during production, launch and even just gravity acting on them. It is hoped that by creating adaptive X-ray optics, we can remove all these deformations and increase the resolution and size of our telescopes.


For more information, please visit the consortium’s website

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