SBIR Phase I: A Novel Method to Manufacture Ultra-Precise Diffraction Gratings for X-Ray Analysis and Imaging
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project seeks to revolutionize the manufacture of ultra-high precision, x-ray diffraction gratings. Mechanically ruled, x-ray gratings are used mainly at synchrotron radiation facilities, where they define the wavelength of x-rays used for chemical analysis and imaging studies in a wide range of disciplines including photovoltaics, electronic materials, catalysis, structural biology, and environmental science. These facilities serve a wide variety of industries and academic disciplines. While the technology to make such gratings, based on an instrument called a "ruling engine", was invented in the U.S., commercial manufacturing moved abroad decades ago to Japan and Europe. Previous feasibility studies suggest a potentially revolutionary new technology for manufacturing x-ray gratings: using a scanning probe platform based on piezoelectric motion stages, the ability to rule high-quality grating lines over length scales of 100 microns has been demonstrated. The objective of this project is to build a manufacturing platform to scale up this approach to areas of 75 square centimeters, which is sufficient for commercial gratings. The final objective is to deliver a full-sized prototype to a partner facility which will perform testing on the resulting structure. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is that, in the past three years, a crisis has occurred in the x-ray grating market. The only two global suppliers of mechanically-ruled gratings ceased to take orders, either because their technology was obsolete or because of severe infrastructure problems. This vanishing of world capacity has taken place when demand for x-ray gratings is at an all-time high and growing. Extensive communication with management at several synchrotron facilities has established that the average facility currently has an order backlog of six gratings. There are seventy such facilities in the world, which implies a near-term revenue potential of approximately $21 million. The goal is to capture the entire market and bring this area of manufacturing back to the U.S. This market aside, this project has the potential to enable new technologies based on the ability to realize customized optical wave fronts, as the proposed approach allows grating lines to be curved into arcs or ellipses, providing lateral focusing, or written with topological defects that create electromagnetic vortices with high angular momentum. These unexplored capabilities could find use in inertial confinement fusion, x-ray telescopes, or the wider market of optical gratings.
Small Business Information at Submission:
60 Hazelwood Drive Suite 126 Villa Grove, IL 61820-7460
Number of Employees: