X-rays create 3D image of the inside of nanocrystals

Roland Piquepaille writes in on his Technology Trends website about a new approach that could show scientists a way to create three-dimensional photographs of actual molecules: Researchers from the University College London say that they were able to create full 3D images of the inside of nanocrystals by using a process known as coherent X-ray diffraction imaging.

The X-ray technique enabled researchers to measure and invert diffraction patterns and build an inside picture of the nanocrystals step-by-step. Ultimately, the University College London believes, the technique could lead to the development of X-ray free-electron lasers, which may allow single-molecule imaging. Such a tool would especially be handy to determine and assess defects in any given material.

The inversion of a diffraction pattern back to an image has already been proven to yield a unique photograph in 2D. However, previously researchers have encountered difficulties with 3D structures with deformations as these interfere with the symmetry of the pattern, according to the University College London. To solve this problem, the UCL team used a lead nanocrystal that was crystallized in an "ultrahigh" vacuum.