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Performance of tabletop X-ray instrument approaches that of a synchrotron

System could open X-ray spectroscopy to a broader community

by Celia Henry Arnaud
March 3, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 9


Components of a tabletop X-ray spectrometer on an optical table.
Credit: Institut für Nanophotonik, Göttingen
A high-resolution X-ray spectrometer fits on an optical table.

X-ray spectroscopy measurements that previously needed to be done at a synchrotron facility could become available to a broader audience thanks to a new tabletop system (Anal. Chem. 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.1c04374).

Jürgen Thieme, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and his colleagues at the Institute for Nanophotonics Göttingen and Friedrich Schiller University Jena wanted to make an X-ray spectroscopy system that would be easy enough for nonexperts to use. Synchrotron-based instruments provide high-sensitivity and high-spectral-resolution analyses for understanding details about the molecular structure of the materials being studied. There are only a handful of facilities in the world, however, and getting time on an instrument to run experiments is difficult.

The new system consists of a low-energy X-ray source that emits radiation over a range of photon energies and an array detector that can acquire the entire signal spectrum simultaneously. The system can be used for X-ray absorption spectroscopy of a variety of thin organic and inorganic samples. The team has been refining and miniaturizing the system for years; its newly reported version measures 2 m x 1 m, fits on an optical table, and has spectral resolution that approaches that of synchrotron-based instruments.

“This is a very welcome advance. An enhanced availability of laboratory-based spectrometers makes X-ray-spectroscopy-based methods available to a much wider community,” says Jeroen A. van Bokhoven, the head of the Laboratory for Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry at the Swiss Light Source at the Paul Scherrer Institute. Access to synchrotrons is generally limited to a few visits per year for a few days at a time, he notes. “It will be exciting to see what a general availability of such instrumentation to the wider scientific community will bring.”



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