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X-ray birefringence imaging

Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 1013-1016
DOI: 10.1126/science.1253537

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A close-up view of carbon-bromide bonds

Polarizing filters are widely used in optical microscopy to highlight a range of material properties that cause optical path boundaries or birefringence in a material. Palmer et al. (see the Perspective by Lidin) developed an analog method for x-ray microscopy using linearly polarized x-ray beams and an area detector inside a synchrotron. The technique revealed the orientation of the C-Br bonds within crystalline materials.

Science, this issue p. 1013; see also p. 969

Abstract

The polarizing optical microscope has been used since the 19th century to study the structural anisotropy of materials, based on the phenomenon of optical birefringence. In contrast, the phenomenon of x-ray birefringence has been demonstrated only recently and has been shown to be a sensitive probe of the orientational properties of individual molecules and/or bonds in anisotropic solids. Here, we report a technique—x-ray birefringence imaging (XBI)—that enables spatially resolved mapping of x-ray birefringence of materials, representing the x-ray analog of the polarizing optical microscope. Our results demonstrate the utility and potential of XBI as a sensitive technique for imaging the local orientational properties of anisotropic materials, including characterization of changes in molecular orientational ordering associated with solid-state phase transitions and identification of the size, spatial distribution, and temperature dependence of domain structures.

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