University Teams with NASA to Improve X-Ray Optics

A new technology for generating intense X-ray beams has been jointly developed by researchers from NASA, the University and X-ray Optical Systems, Inc., an incubator company at the University.

The new instrument is capable of generating beams that are more than 100 times the intensity of other conventional X-ray sources, say the researchers.

"This new optical instrument allows us to look at protein structures that we have been unable to look at before," said physicist Walter Gibson, director of the University’s Center for X-ray Optics.

At the heart of the instrument is a new type of optics for X-rays called "capillary optics."

"The X-rays are controlled by reflecting them through tens of thousands of tiny curved channels or capillaries, similar to the way that light is directed through fiber optics," said Gibson.

"Thus we are able to concentrate the beams to suit the particular needs of the intended research or medical procedure."

The new instrument is based on technology first conceived by Russian physicist Muradin Kumakhov. Five years ago, Kumakhov and Gibson, who had collaborated on various research projects for 20 years, unveiled the technology in this country and formed a partnership to further develop it.

The University established the Center for X-Ray Optics to conduct research related to the new technology and David Gibson, son of Walter Gibson, established X-Ray Optical Systems, Inc. to develop commercial applications.

Last year, X-Ray Optical Systems was the winner of a 1995 R&D 100 Award, an honor bestowed by R&D Magazine on the 100 most technologically significant new products of the year. Sharing the award was the University for the contributions of physicist Raymond Benenson, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The honored product was a neutron-focusing optical device that enables scientists to better analyze small samples of materials such as semiconductors, polymers and ceramics.

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