Microscope sees smaller without lenses

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a new X-ray microscope can penetrate deep into materials and see details at the scale of a single nanometer, or one billionth of a meter.

Physicists at the University of California, San Diego, say the microscope doesn't use lenses but rather a powerful computer program to create its images.

The program, or algorithm, is able to convert the diffraction patterns resulting in the X-rays bouncing off the nanoscale structures of material into resolvable images, a UCSD release said Monday.

"The mathematics behind this is somewhat complicated," physics Professor Oleg Shpyrko, who headed the research team, said. "But what we did is to show that for the first time that we can image magnetic domains with nanometer precision. In other words, we can see magnetic structure at the nanoscale level without using any lenses."

An immediate application of the new is the development of smaller storage devices for computers that can hold more data.

"This will aid research in hard disk drives where the magnetic bits of data on the surface of the disk are currently only 15 nanometers in size," researcher Eric Fullerton said. "This new ability to directly image the bits will be invaluable as we push to store even more data in the future."

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