SBIR Phase II: A Novel Method to Manufacture Ultra-Precise Diffraction Gratings for X-Ray Analysis and Imaging

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Inprentus, Inc.
60 Hazelwood Drive, Suite 126
Villa Grove, IL 61820
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project will revolutionize the manufacture of ultrahigh precision, x-ray diffraction gratings. Mechanically ruled, x-ray gratings are used at synchrotron radiation and free-electron laser facilities, where they define the wavelength of x-rays used for chemical analysis and imaging studies in the fields of photovoltaics, electronic materials, catalysis, structural biology, environmental science, and others, serving a wide variety of industries and academic disciplines. This effort will advance a new approach to fabricating such gratings that uses a pair of atomic force microscopes (AFMs) operating in tandem - one for scribing and the other for in situ imaging. This combination provides unprecedented control over feature shape and positioning, and will allow scribing of features with nm-scale precision over areas exceeding 400 square centimeters. If successful, the result will be a new approach to fabricating holographic optics for use not only at synchrotron and free-electron laser facilities, but for a variety of other applications. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project stems from the fact that, between 2009 and 2011, a crisis occurred in the x & #8208;ray grating market. The only two world 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 & #8208;ray gratings is at an all-time high and growing. Extensive market research via direct communication with x-ray facilities has revealed a current need for 430 gratings worldwide, which at a sale price of $60,000 implies a global market opportunity of approximately $26 million. If successful, it should be possible to capture this market and bring this area of manufacturing back to the U.S. Gratings aside, this project presents a new approach to creating holographic optics that could enable new technologies based on the engineering of customized, optical wave fronts. This approach can scribe curved lines, forming arcs or ellipses, providing lateral focusing, or exhibiting topological defects that create electromagnetic vortices having high angular momentum. These features may find use in microscopy, extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, or the creation of masters for the mass market for optical grating replicas.