Compound refractive lens

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A Compound refractive lens (CRL) is a series of individual lenses arranged in a linear array in order to achieve focusing of X-rays in the energy range of 5-40 keV.

For all materials the refractive index for X-rays is close to 1, hence a single conventional lens for X-rays has an extremely long focal length (for practical lens sizes, on the order of 1 mm). In addition, X-rays attenuate as they pass through a material so that conventional lenses for X-rays have long been considered impractical. The CRL gets its reasonably short focal length, on the order of meters, by using many lenses in series. To minimize the absorption the lens must be made from a material such as aluminium, beryllium, or lithium.

CRLs were first demonstrated in the mid-1990s by a group of scientists at the ESRF. They drilled holes in an aluminium block, and achieved focusing in two dimensions. For X-rays a concave lens focuses the X-rays because the index of refraction is slightly below unity. In a CRL of this type the walls between the cylindrical holes act as concave lenses for X-rays traveling perpendicular to the axis of the drilled cylinders. In contrast, for visible light the index of refraction is larger than unity and focusing is done with a convex lens.


Scientists associated with the ESRF synchrotron have done much of the CRL's subsequent development, notably the parabolic CRLs pioneered by the Aachen group under Lengeler. Their signature material is beryllium: a group at the Advanced Photon Source APS demonstrated the same lenses in lithium. These lenses have a direct counterpart in visible light.

The saw-tooth lens is a unique optical scheme suggested and demonstrated by Cederstrom. It approximates a parabolic lens much as a numerical computation on a grid approximates a smooth line, with a series of prisms that each deflect the X-rays over a minute angle. Lenses of this type have been made from silicon, plastic, and lithium.


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2. A. Snigirev, B. Filseth, P. Elleaume, Th. Klocke, V. Kohn, B. Lengeler, I. Snigireva, A. Souvorov, J. Tuemmler, "Refractive lenses for high-energy x-ray focusing",Proc. SPIE Vol. 3151, p. 164-170, (1997).

3. R. K. Smither, A. M. Khounsary, and S. Xu, "Potential of a beryllium x-ray lens," Proc. SPIE Vol. 3151, p. 150-163, (1997).

4. K. Young, A. Khounsary, A. Jansen, E. Dufresne, and P. Nash "Fabrication and Performance of a Lithium X-Ray Lens," AIP Conference Proceedings, Vol. 879, p. 989-993, (2007).

5. Arndt Last. "Compound refractive X-ray optics". Retrieved 7 Oct 2016.