A research team in Germany has captured images of three-dimensional ultrafine structures of a fly measuring just a few millimetres using X-rays generated with the help of a laser.
The researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich and the Technical University Munich achieved the high resolution by using particularly brilliant X-radiation coupled with phase-contrast X-ray tomography.
According to them, the new X-ray source could be used in medical science providing detailed images particularly of soft tissues that would be impossible today without huge expense. The breakthrough may enable medicos to identify tumors in future at a stage where cancer can still be easily treated.
When the researchers illuminate a tiny fly with X-rays, the resulting image captures even the finest hairs on the wings of the insect. For the first time, the scientists combined their technology to generate X-rays from laser pulses with phase-contrast X-ray tomography to visualize tissues in organisms. The result is a 3-D view of the insect showing numerous details.
The research team earlier developed the brilliant X-ray light by accelerating electrons to nearly the speed of light over a distance of approximately one centimeter by laser pulses lasting around 25 femtoseconds.