The idea of controlling the beams of neutral particles, x-rays, and neutrons was first proposed in the late 1980s by Kumakhov. Founded on using multiple reflection and special geometry of reflecting surfaces inside hollow glass capillaries, the idea was patented by Kumakhov in 1984. The first x-ray capillary lens was created in his laboratory at the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in 1985, and the first neutron lens in 1987. Beginning in 1991, polycapillary optics have been the focus of research at the IRO.
In fact, several generations of x-ray lenses have been developed at the IRO. The first lenses were assembled manually using several thousand single capillaries with channel diameters of about 1 mm. Compare this to the most recent generation of lenses, made up of as many as a million channels, each channel less than 1 um in diameter.
The range of energy controllable with the help of Kumakhov polycapillary optics varies from hundreds of electrons to 60 keV. The optics have a very large angle of capture (6 to 10°) and transmit radiation efficiently from the source, concurrently converting the radiation into a quasi-parallel or focused beam. Lens length ranges from several millimeters to 12 cm, depending on the task at hand.
The IRO was also the first to produce polycapillary structures with nanometer-dimension channel sizes and the first to create neutron polycapillary lenses that are used efficiently to focus neutron beams.
FULL X-RAY TOOLBOX
The IRO not only has developed and manufactured high-performance optics but also has produced a new generation of micro-focus x-ray sources readily compatible with x-ray optics, including various x-ray tubes with different purposes and generators.
In addition, IRO-manufactured linear position-sensitive detectors are used in IRO-developed diffractometers, the spatial resolution of which is better than 50 µm. The IRO is the only organization in Russia manufacturing the full range of x-ray tools.
On the basis of Kumakhov polycapillary optics, the IRO, in cooperation with Unisantis S.A. (Switzerland), has created a new generation of x-ray analytical equipment, constituting more than 15 different instruments.
X-ray spectrometers have been made for local fluorescence microanalysis of the chemical composition of objects (u-XRF). In these instruments, the focal spot of the polycapillary lens varies from 10 µm and greater. In 2006, for the first time, a portable x-ray scanning microscope with a focal spot of 1 µm will be available commercially.
X-ray diffractometers for phase and stress analysis also have been created. Now one instrument combines chemical analysis (u-XRF), phase analysis, and stress analysis. IRO stress analyzers are used for monitoring and routine checks of nuclear power plants, in aviation, and on railways.
All of these instruments have low power consumption (5 to 50 W) and small dimensions, and are lightweight (about 10 kg or less). The instruments can be operated in the field, in a standard lab environment, and even in a car—offering potentially real-time identification for homeland security.
For the first time in x-ray engineering, a desktop instrument has been produced featuring record detection-level parameters. This instrument can analyze solutions, water, etc., at 1 ppb(i.e., 1/109).
Continuing their series of "small" achievements, the IRO has developed a unique instrument named a "Laboratory Synchrotron." This portable instrument, which weighs only about 10 kg, provides unprecedented fluxes of monochromatic x-rays at the level of 1010 to 10" photon/sec'mm with about 2 mrad divergence. This is a significant advance compared to existing static and rotating anodes. If the Laboratory Synchrotron is equipped with convergent optics, it will allow a further increase of flux by two orders.
This instrument has a wide range of applications including protein diffractometry, high-pressure crystallography of materials, micro-diffraction studies, and small-angle scattering. The most important applications of the instrument may be in pharmacology.
All of these developments mean Kumakhov polycapillary optics have become a real tool not just for laboratories but also in industry and medicine.
The IRO does more than conduct research, though. The Institute also organizes the International Conference on X-Ray and Neutron Capillary Optics held in Russia every three years under the aegis of and the SPIE Russia Chapter.
In addition, the IRO received the 2002 SPIE Technology Achievement Award for "outstanding scientific and technological achievements in the development, fabrication, implementation, and reduction to practice of Kumakov x-ray and neutron capillary and polycapillary optics."
IRO efforts were also recognized at the International Exhibition of Military and Police Equipment in 2004, where its micro-XRF analyzer, a very convenient instrument for practical forensic examinations, was awarded a prize.