Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have started building a quantum-enhanced X-Ray microscope at the NSLS-II (National Synchrotron Light Source II). The Biological and Environmental Research program at the DOE’s Office of Science is supporting the building of a supposed microscope. It would enable researchers to image biomolecules like never before. The NSLS-II is a DOE Office of Science User Facility where researchers use powerful X-Rays to find the structural, chemical, and electronic makeup of materials down to the atomic scale. The ultrabright light of the facility is already enabling discoveries in biology. It helps researchers to find out the structures of proteins to inform drug design for a variety of diseases. So, researchers at NSLS-II will be able to image more sensitive biomolecules without sacrificing resolution by tapping into the quantum properties of X-Rays.
Moreover, the high penetration power of X-Rays enables superior resolution for imaging studies. This powerful light can also damage certain biological samples, such as plant cells, viruses, and bacteria. Low-dose X-ray studies can preserve these samples, but the imaging resolution is decreased. The manager of the structural biology program at NSLS-II, Sean McSweeney said, “If we are successful in building a quantum-enhanced x-ray microscope, we will be able to image biomolecules with very high resolution and a very low dose of x-rays”. Point to be noted that the quantum-enhanced X-Ray microscope at NSLS-II will achieve this remarkable combination of capabilities through an experimental technique called Ghost imaging. The typical x-ray imaging techniques send a single beam of photons through a sample and onto a detector.
But, Ghost imaging requires the X-Ray beam to be split into 2 streams of entangled photons. Just one of which passes through the sample, but both gather information. By splitting the beam, the sample being studied is only exposed to a fraction of the x-ray dose. And since the photons that do not pass through the sample are correlated with the photons that do, the resolution of a full-dose x-ray beam is maintained. Ghost imaging techniques have already been successfully developed using photons of visible light, but translating this technique to x-ray light will be a major scientific achievement. The quantum-enhanced x-ray microscope at Brookhaven Lab is being developed at NSLS-II’s CHX beamline. NSLS-II will collaborate with physicists at Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University on the integration of these complex instruments.