Peek Inside Molecules

The team is collaborating with scientists across the country and in Germany and Sweden to utilize high-energy X-ray beams, combined with complex algorithms, to overcome difficulties in current technology.

The work began more than five years ago as a Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project headed by Stefano Marchesini. He has since transferred to Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBNL), leaving the project in the hands of Stefan Hau-Riege, a materials science physicist at LLNL.

For now, the Advanced Light Source at LBNL and in Hamburg, Germany, are being used to provide the X-ray beams. But a new facility under construction at Stanford University will provide additional capabilities and greater imaging accuracy when it comes on line next year.

Another light source being built in Hamburg will be used as well. It will be completed in late 2013.

Using high-energy, extremely short-pulse - less than 100 femtoseconds, or one quadrillionth of a second - X-ray beams to examine nanoscale objects is not a new concept. The difficulty lies with the algorithms to convert the resulting patterns into usable images.

One method to increase the signal and resolution of the image is to include a second item with known features during the laser imaging. Known as a "reference object," it gives the researchers additional information with which to process the imaging data.

What is new is to use a very special reference object called a "uniformly redundant array" (URA). In this case, a combination of complex formulas known as a "Fourier Transform" and a "Hadamard Transform" are utilized to convert the data into an image that represents the object being examined. Hadamard transforms are commonly used in signal processing and data algorithms, including those used in photo and video compression.; Quelle: DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory