Soft x-ray microscopy

Senior scientist(s): Hans Hertz

Microscopy in the water window (=2.3-4.4 nm; E=284-540 eV) allows for imaging of unstained intact cells in their near-native environment with unprecedented resolution and contrast [1]. Synchrotron-based x-ray microscopy has demonstrated significant progress the last few years, delivering results of high biological relevance with second-range exposure times. Laboratory microscopy now produces images with synchrotron quality but with longer exposure times.

We demonstrated the first sub-visible-resolution laboratory water-window x-ray microscope [2]. The microscope relies on our pioneering work on high-brightness liquid-jet laser-plasma sources [3], normal-incidence multilayer condenser optics, and in-house diffractive optics. Recent work include 3D cryo-tomography of intact cells. Figure 1 shows two examples [4]. The resolution is down to 25 nm and 10 s exposure times were recently demonstrated.


  1. See, e.g., A. Sakdinawat and D. Attwood, Nature Phot. 4, 840-848 (2010).
  2. M. Berglund et al, J. Microscopy 197, 268 (2000).
  3. L. Rymell and H.M. Hertz, Opt. Commun. 103, 105 (1993).
  4. H. M. Hertz et al, J. Struct. Biol. 177, 267 (2012).
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