Soft X-Ray Microscopy

Soft x-ray microscopy is used for imaging and researching the elemental composition and structure of biological samples and more. With a wavelength range between 4.0 Å (~3.0 keV) and 44 Å (~300 eV), soft x-ray microscopes are capable of achieving spatial resolution of several hundred Å, about 10x better resolution than the maximum of a visible light microscope.

The primary advantages of a soft x-ray microscope are its design simplicity and its ability to form the highest-spatial-resolution images of thick, hydrated biological samples without the time-consuming sample preparation required by electron microscopes in a near-native environment. Also, because biological samples consist largely of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen (with additional amounts of seven other elements and important trace elements), and have their primary absorption edges (except hydrogen) in the water window between the absorption edge of carbon (284 eV, 4.4 nm) and oxygen (543 eV, 2.3 nm), soft x-ray microscopes provide excellent spectroscopic information and deliver high-contrast images.

PI's Picks

For soft x-ray microscopy, Princeton Instruments recommends the following imaging systems:

PIXIS-XO and PyLoN-XO CCD cameras from PI provide 16-bit digitization, excellent resolution for spectral analysis, and ultra-high-vacuum compatibility.

Another option, our uniquely designed PI-MTE, delivers reliable, deep-cooled CCD performance even when the compact camera is positioned on a movable arm in a high-vacuum environment.

Each of these high-sensitivity, wide-dynamic-range cameras utilizes a special back-illuminated CCD without antireflective coating for direct soft x-ray and EUV imaging.

The absorption length for soft x-rays in water and major elements in a biological sample.
malaria image
Image courtesy of the late Dr. Werner Meyer-Ilse, ALS, Berkeley, CA

In a soft x-ray microscope arrangement, soft x-rays from a synchrotron (laser-induced x-rays) are guided along a beamline and a sample is exposed. A zone plate lens is used to form an image of the transmitted x-rays onto a special back-illuminated CCD (one without antireflective coating) and a high-contrast image is captured. In a scanning soft x-ray microscope arrangement, monochromatic soft x-rays from a synchrotron are guided along a beamline and impinge on the zone plate.

The zone plates focus the x-rays to bring them to a very sharp focus (<0.1 µm in diameter) at a single point on the sample. The sample is scanned and the information about the absorption versus position is recorded. This step is repeated several times with different monochromatic x-rays and an image is constructed, pixel by pixel, in the software. Such an approach enables excellent elemental and chemical analyses at very high spectral resolutions, limited merely by synchrotron instruments.

experimental setup

Diagram of main components of soft X-ray microscopy at beam-line XM-1, at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA .


Application Notes

High-Harmonic Generation (HHG) and High-Sensitivity, High-Speed Scientific Cameras for Applications in the Soft X-ray Energy Regime
X-ray experimental setups for individual labs continue to evolve and gain popularity...selecting the right application-appropriate camera will be imperative to capitalize fully on the benefits of these new setups


X-Ray Camera Brochure
Comprehensive information on direct and indirect X-ray detection technologies from Princeton Instruments. Includes related application and technical notes.

PIXIS-XF<br>  间接探测型X射线相机


2kx2k像素分辨率,光钎耦合,探测能量从4 keV 到 >50 keV

LightField <br> 科学成像及光谱分析软件



PIXIS-XO <br> 软X射线相机



PI-MTE<br>  真空内相机


最小巧,真空兼容,直接探测型X射线相机,探测能量从< 30 eV ~ 20 KeV


特色产品 Soft X-Ray Microscopy

PIXIS-XO <br> 软X射线相机